(Photo via Telam)

Speaking at the 51st Mercosur summit in Brasilia, President Mauricio Macri has renewed calls for the Mercosur to increase its integration, to finalize a free trade deal with the European Union, and for the continuation of the process to increase cooperation with the Pacific Alliance. Criticism for the Venezuelan government was also expressed during his speech.

Macri’s statements come just over a week since it became clear at the WTO ministerial conference in Buenos Aires that a deal between the Mercosur and the EU would not be finalized before the end of 2017 as had originally been the target.

“Once again, I would like to reaffirm Argentina’s absolute commitment to the Mercosur” said Macri at the meeting which was also attended by Brazilian President Michel Temer, Paraguayan President Horacio Cartes, and Uruguayan President Tabaré Vázquez. Bolivian President Evo Morales also attended, as Bolivia is in the process of becoming a full member of the bloc. President David Granger of Guyana, an associate member of the Mercosur, was also present.

Brazil's President Michel Temer reacts next to Argentina's President Mauricio Macri before a working session at Mercosur trade bloc annual summit in Brasilia, Brazil (Reuters / Adriano Machado)
Brazil’s President Michel Temer reacts next to Argentina’s President Mauricio Macri before a working session at Mercosur trade bloc annual summit in Brasilia, Brazil (Reuters / Adriano Machado)

 

Today’s summit marks the conclusion of Brazil’s rotating presidency of the group, which has been handed over to Paraguay. Yesterday, Paraguayan Foreign Minister Eladio Loizaga said Asunción is committed to maintaining the trade agenda set out by the recent Argentine and Brazilian presidencies.

“We need a Mercosur that is updated for the 21st Century, we need our integration to be a cutting edge instrument, where the decisions we take consider the dynamics of regional and global changes.”

In a nod to the relative lack of intra-Mercosur trade compared to other trading blocs, Macri added that “the Mercosur needs to continue growing internally so that it can grow outwards, and it must grow outwards to continue growing internally.” The president repeated that he felt that the European Union is a natural trading and investment partner for the Mercosur, and added that concrete approaches to the Pacific Alliance would eventually lead to a “productive region with coasts on two oceans, and which is destined to be one of the most dynamic areas of growth in the world.” Temer also added that the current scenario represented the first time that there was a “realistic” chance of an agreement with the European Union.

The president also promised that as chair of the G20, Argentina will be “an expression for the entire region, and not of just one country.” 2018 marks the first time that the G20 will be held in South America and Macri asked for support from his neighbors in order to “transmit the aspirations and worries of our region.”

The president also reiterated that he sent a message of support and solidarity for the Venezuelan people. “From the Mercosur, we reiterate our call to respect human rights, the freedom of political prisoners, and the prompt adoption of an electoral calendar that is able to guarantee an open and transparent electoral process.” The Argentine president has been a fierce critic of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, who has responded in kind. Venezuela is currently suspended from the Mercosur after the bloc set into motion the democratic clause of the Ushuaia Protocol, which penalizes and considers possible expulsion of those countries violating the democratic system.