Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro called for a swift implementation of the trade deal struck between the European Union and the South America customs union Mercosur.
Speaking during Mercosur’s presidential summit Thursday, Bolsonaro said his government was working toward a leaner, more efficient customs union. He also said his administration would honor a 12 million-real ($2.9 million) payment to Mercosur “despite financial problems.”
The customs union, comprising Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay, recently reached its most significant trade agreement to date with the EU, but the deal has yet to be ratified and some European lawmakers are vehemently opposed. On the South American side, while the Brazilian government wholeheartedly supports the agreement, Argentina’s President-elect Alberto Fernandez has questioned its benefits.
Leaders of the Mercosur member states plus officials from Bolivia and Chile are meeting in the southern Brazilian city of Bento Goncalves.
With both Argentina and Uruguay represented by their outgoing administrations, there’s no chance of another public clash between Bolsonaro and Fernandez, but there’s also little possibility of any meaningful agreements.
While the Mercosur members have remained unscathed by the unrest that has roiled South America in recent months, the specter of the protests across several Andean nations hung over the gathering.
Just five days before leaving office, Argentina’s President Mauricio Macri condemned the disorder in Chile, describing it as “anarchic,” saying such violence doesn’t belong in a democratic country.
Chile’s foreign minister, Teodoro Ribera, said his country has so far lost around $7 billion as a result of the rioting.
“What’s happening in Chile is something worth studying,” he said. “It’s necessary to study this situation because we always associate economic growth with stability.”
Aside from concern about Chile, the unrest in Bolivia also prompted a terse exchange between Uruguay’s outgoing vice president, Lucia Topolansky, and the new Bolivian foreign minister, Karen Longaric.
“This meeting takes place in a worrying context,” the Uruguayan said. “It’s not just one country undergoing a crisis, now there are various states shaken by institutional conflicts and even coups.”
Longaric responded by saying that the elections organized under former President Evo Morales were “sadly manipulated” and fraudulent.
“How could it be a coup if the legislative assembly continued to work in an uninterrupted way?” she said. “In Bolivia there was no constitutional rupture. The government of President Jeanine Anez has as its goal the delivery of clean and transparent elections.”
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