Economy Minister Paulo Guedes says Brazil has “no problem” with Argentina's president-elect Alberto Fernández.
Jair Bolsonaro's economic mastermind was responding to questions about the future of the Mercosur trade bloc – the members of which are Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay – during a conference at the Peterson Institute for International Economics (PIIE) in Washington DC.
Bolsonaro, Brazil's far-right president, believes a Fernández presidency would endanger the continuation of the free-trade policies put in place by President Mauricio Macri.
Mercosur “is very important to us,” Guedes told the PIIE on Tuesday.
Both Guedes and Bolsonaro have previously warned that a victory by Fernández, a Peronist, in Argentina's October 27 election would endanger Mercosur accords.
Asked about the future of the Mercosur in Washington and its historic free-trade agreement with the European Union (EU), signed earlier this year but yet yet to come into effect, Guedes said he believed the deal would be quickly ratified by all interested parties, including Argentina. Negotiations over the deal took 20 years, and were finalised at this year’s G20 summit in Osaka, Japan.
“My expectation is that they [Argentina] come with us," said Guedes. "It’s reasonable. They should do it. It’s important for them."
"They lost, like us, 10, 20 years with a closed economy,” he added.
To the surprise of the moderator, Guedes declared that “we have no problems with the new president of Argentina; as long as we’re seeking higher rounds together, no problems whatsoever.”
Fernández will take office on 10 December, seconded by vice-president-elect Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, who was known for her leftist protectionist policies during her 2007 to 2015 presidency.
Not everyone in Brazil is on the same page. Speaking a day earlier, Foreign Minister Ernesto Araújo had insisted Brazil was studying a potential departure from the bloc if Fernández were to become a problem for the government.
On Monday, in an interview with Brazilian finance newspaper Valor Econômico, Araújo admitted that a 'Braxit' from the Mercosur would be a response to a “deep vision in Argentina that goes against the basic agreements” of the bloc.
However, Guedes discarded that idea for the most part on Tuesday, saying it would only be on the cards if the new Argentine government refused to support the trading bloc’s opening up to other markets.