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LATIN AMERICA | 21-08-2020 03:49

Brazil, Argentina vow to put tensions aside amid deep slump

Argentina's new ambassador to Brazil, veteran Peronist Daniel Scioli, presents credentials to President Jair Bolsonaro in Brasilia.

Brazil and Argentina have pledged to work together to solve key trade problems in the face of the serious difficulties the two largest economies in the region are facing in recovering from the pandemic.

The joint message emerged on Wednesday, when Argentina's new ambassador to Brazil, veteran Peronist Daniel Scioli, presented his credentials to President Jair Bolsonaro in Brasilia.

Bolsonaro has exchanged insults and has disagreed on almost everything with President Alberto Fernández to date, as evidenced by both nation's contrasting responses to the coronavirus pandemic.

After the meeting, Ambassador Scioli was quoted in local media outlets as saying that he had conveyed Fernández's willingness to work together with Bolsonaro and put disagreements behind them.

Scioli, a former governor of Buenos Aires Province who lost the 2015 presidential election to Mauricio Macri, said he suggested that the two leaders meet face-to-face before the end of the year. Bolsonaro was receptive to the idea, said a source who was briefed on the meeting, but is not authorised to discuss the matter publicly.

The Brazilian president later said on Twitter that he is "proud of the important relationship" Brazil has "with our Argentine brothers."

Three individuals familiar with the discussions told Bloomberg that the atmosphere at the meeting was positive and showed that the neighbouring giants can at least achieve a minimum level of dialogue in order to discuss sensitive bilateral issues.

According to data from the INDEC national statistics bureau, annual trade between the two countries, which covers products as diverse as shoes, cars and agricultural products, amounted to about US$20 billion in 2019.

Trade is expected to slow down this year as demand declines in both countries. Brazil has complained that Argentina has put up obstacles to trade.

Brazil's economy will contract 4.7 percent this year, according to government forecasts, and Argentina's is projected to fall 12.5 percent, according to a recent Central Bank survey of economists taken this month.

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by Samy Adghirni & Jorgelina do Rosario, Bloomberg

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