Argentina is to take over Tuesday the pro-tempore presidency of Mercosur from Uruguay in Montevideo, where the hosts' unilateral search for other markets behind the regional bloc's back has stirred controversies.
Under Argentina's Alberto Fernández, the bloc faces the development of the internal supply chains and expects a change in the balance of power following the inauguration of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva on Jan. 1, in addition to the crisis stemming from Uruguay's solo endeavors.
We are concerned with problems that would inevitably result from individual negotiations: legal and commercial problems, Brazilian Foreign Minister Carlos França said.
His Paraguayan colleague Julio Arriola agreed that unilateral positions were inadequate and undermined the image of Mercosur. Arriola also urged Montevideo to honor Mercosur's founding documents.
Lula's The return to power of Lula da Silva anticipates a change of era for Mercosur. Uruguayan President Luis Lacalle Pou will lose his closest ally Jair Bolsonaro in his quest to make the bloc more flexible.
Among Fernández's priorities will be a trade agreement with Central America and the Caribbean. Argentina's Foreign Ministry sources also mentioned the next step will be Africa, while the treaty with the European Union is yet to be ratified and is therefore virtually non-existent.
At Mercosur's previous summit, Uruguay had already expressed its intention to sign a Free Trade Agreement with China.
Undoubtedly, negotiating as a bloc is more laborious and requires more time, but we are convinced that the best strategy is not to rush to close agreements that would then deepen our productive and scientific-technological gaps with other states or blocs, Argentine Foreign Minister Santiago Cafiero said.
Cafiero also mentioned that the bloc was negotiating with Indonesia and argued that that the next logical was the Caribbean.
Brazil is open to discussing flexible modalities in our external negotiations of the bloc, provided that they happen in a frank and transparent manner and in the instances of the bloc, França said.
We believe that balanced trade is going to be central to the growth of income and the welfare of our peoples. We have a de facto free trade area in South America. This is a conquest that should not be underestimated, he added.
It may be that alone we go faster, but together we go further, Arriola pointed out while encouraging member nations to take advantage of the stability of the Mercosur bloc and to deploy the region's green agenda.
Mercosur countries have much to offer the world as food producers, in terms of food security and sustainable production, he added.
França also wished Cafiero good luck as Foreign Minister in charge of the bloc's pro-tempore presidency. I would like to wish you luck in your work. I have heard that those who are lucky at work are unlucky at football. I want to wish you a lot of success, França insisted in an obvious joke about both countries' national teams participating in the Qatar 2022 World Cup.