Photo provided by Casa Rosada

On Sunday, President Macri met with his Chilean counterpart, Michele Bachelet, in the Chilean town of Colina, to discuss increasing economic integration between the two countries and across the region. 

In a joint statement, the leaders underlined their desire “to advance in the progress and integration of both nations, increasing the bonds of unity in Latin America.” The occasion was quite appropriately held at the site of the Battle of Chacabuco, a decisive battle in the Chilean War of Independence, one where both Argentines and Chileans played a key role.

Macri and Bachelet reportedly met before the commemoration celebration to discuss promoting cooperation between Argentina and Chile. They then travelled to Colina, which lies about 55km north of Santiago, to sign “The Declaration of Chacabuco” promoting a bilateral relationship between the countries.

Macri delivered a speech in which – clearly inspired by the scenery and the occasion – he alluded to the current global tendency towards protectionism and the importance of maintaining transnational unity. “The world presents enormous challenges as big as the Andes that separate us. More than ever, we need to think of how we can be successful in the face of these challenges and transform them into opportunities for our people. And without a doubt it’s in the way that San Martín and O’Higgins [two leaders of Independence in Argentina and Chile.]”

Bachelet was also comfortable hitting the high rhetorical notes, arguing against nationalism and economic protectionism: “In days in which the planet is experiencing segregation, xenophobia and protectionism, Chile and Argentina have initiated a path of collaboration,” she said. She also placed particular emphasis on the two countries working together to combat the “natural disasters” that plague that two countries (Chile has been devastated by forest-fires fires, while Argentina has consistent problems with flooding.)

One of most anticipated consequences of the meeting was the formal call for the two big trading blocs of South America – the Mercosur (Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and Venezuela) and the Pacific Alliance (Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Per) – to cooperate more closely. 

After inaugurating a historical centre, Macri and Bachelet reportedly got together in a “giant wedding-style tent” (or is it just hopeful symbolism from the La Nacion writer?) to put ink to a declaration calling for greater “political, economic, social and cultural” integration between the two big regional economic blocs. In so doing, the Presidents Pro Tempore of the Mercosur (Macri) and Pacific Alliance (Bachelet), summoned “a meeting between the Foreign Relations Ministers of the two blocs” to take place in the “short term.”

It all comes about as President Macri attempts to recalibrate Argentine foreign policy for a world in which the United States is no longer the promoter of free trade that it once was. Last week he was in Brasilia with Brazilian President, Michel Temer, discussing ways in which barriers to trade could be decreased. Here, Macri reportedly described the relationship between Brazil and Argentina as a “natural strategic alliance.” He also used to the opportunity to call for greater trade with the second biggest Latin American Economy, Mexico, who, in the face of a hostile United States, “will look towards the South with greater decisiveness.”