Fresh from securing
their first major trade
pact, the leaders of the
Mercosur bloc are getting
greedy: this week, Argentina announced their intention to negotiate an ambitious free-trade agreement
with the United States.
Last week’s deal with the
European Union, sealed after more than two decades
of on-off negotiations, delivered a key victory for Presid e n t M a u r i c i o
Macri, ahead of
bid in October, and for his Brazilian
counterpart Jair Bolsonaro,
who is looking to build some
political momentum after a
difficult few months in power himself.
Now the two have set
their sights on Washington
and US President Donald
Trump. President Macri revealed Thursday that his
government is talking with
Brazil about a potential US
free-trade deal, less than a
week after landing one with
the European Union. Foreign Minister Jorge Faurie
first broke the news
Wednesday night during a
TV interview. They also
noted that a deal with Canada is in the works, and
could be signed this year,
while South Korean and
Singapore are also in the
“We think this would
complement what we just
finished with the European
Union,” Faurie said this
week, adding that Brazilian
and Argentine leaders have
brought up the topic with
their US counterparts.
“These are all plates onto
which we can put Argentine
products, and this is hard work,”
the diplomatic chief said.
Brazilian officials claimed
authorship of the idea, according to Clarín daily. Economy
Minister Paulo Guedes and deputy minister for Commerce
and International Affairs Marcos Troyjo held conversations
with first line officials in Donald
Trump’s Cabinet, including
Commerce Secretary Wilbur
Ross and commercial representative Robert Lighthizer.
The talks began in March in
Washington and were reported
to Argentine Production Minister Dante Sica. Congress has
already granted the Executive
with Transport Promotion
Authority (TPA), meaning they
can formally move forward
with the negotiations.
Regarding the recently signed trade deal with the EU, Foreign Minister Faurie denied
that any specific sector of the
economy is “condemned to disappear” and insisted that the
deal was “not the end of national
“We have put together a tariff
reduction scheme that will cushion, greatly, the Mercosur side
of the agreement in the process
of adaptation. The bulk of European products will only begin
to arrive during years 7 to 15.
As such, there is more than
enough time for adaption,” Faurie said adding that the tariffs
are programmed such that
Mercosur products will be able
to compete faster.
President Macri also fended
off criticism that the deal would
harm the Argentine economy
and echoed the Foreign Minister saying that “within months,”
the country will move forward
with agreements with China,
the US and Canada.
“It is false that this deal will
hurt the Argentine market.
This is an agreement that will
generate employment and took
into account all of the concerns.
And we will take care of our
national industry,” the head of
Macri argued that the deal
marks a reversal for Argentina
after decades of protectionism.
Meeting with Argentine business leaders this week, he declared that the country has “a
historic opportunity MercosurEU agreement.”
“The demand for our products will multiply and we must
prepare to increase our production. The world wants to build
relationships with us. The
world believes that we are capable of contributing. And within
a few months with will begin
working towards [trade agreements with] Canada, the US
and China,” he said.
The deal is one of Macri’s
marquee pieces of policy, accompanying a successful insertion of Argentina into the global
community after years of Kirchnerite isolationism. With the
political campaign fully underway, Macri’s electoral team
is looking to capitalise on the
deal, and the President’s good
relationship with global leaders, while contrasting with
C r i s t i n a Fe r n á nd e z d e
Kirchner’s foreign policy record. Already, Alberto Fernández who leads the opposition
ticket, has called the deal disastrous while Axel Kicillof, former Economy Minister under
Cristina and current candidate
for the Buenos Aires Province
governorship, indicated it is
being used to “cover up current
problems.” In Macri’s camp,
they hope the Kirchnerist position will push undecided voters
to their arms.