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LATIN AMERICA | 10-05-2020 10:00

Argentina on board for Mercosur trade talks after 'gradual change in discourse'

A teleconference this Thursday assessed the courses of action on the Mercosur negotiations already concluded with the European Union, the ongoing negotiations with Canada, Korea, Singapore and Lebanon, and the deepening of agreements already signed with Israel and India.

Argentina will continue in the Mercosur trade bloc's upcoming negotiations with South Korea, Canada, Singapore and Lebanon, the Paraguayan government has confirmed.

Paraguay's Vice-Foreign Minister Didier Olmedo confirmed in comments to the AFP news agency that there had been "a gradual change in discource" from Buenos Aires, something later confirmed by Argentina's Foreign Minister Felipe Solá.

According to a Paraguayan government statement issued at the tail end of last week "state parties will continue to jointly develop the commitments of external negotiations.”

"There was a gradual change in discourse" in Buenos Aires,  said Olmedo, who holds the pro tempore presidency of the bloc, adding that "overcoming the impasse is what matters." 

"Let us hope that this lapse, so to speak, results in an episode from which we can be further strengthened. The concrete thing is that Argentina continues and that everything remains the same," he said.

Late last month, the Argentine government said it was unwilling to move towards free-trade agreements with South Korea, Canada, Singapore and Lebanon, citing unease over the coronavirus pandemic and the resulting economic downturn from mandatory isolation orders.

Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay -– Argentina's partners in Mercosur –– agreed that negotiations should continue and did not hide their unease over Argentina’s announcements.

Following the last meeting of representatives of the bloc on April 24, the group's presidency issued a statement in which it announced that Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay would evaluate the most appropriate legal, institutional and operational measures to continue –– without Argentina –– with planned talks.

But last Thursday, Argentina's Foreign Ministry said that the Mercosur nations had agreed to move at different rates in international trade relations without affecting the bloc.

Argentina's proposal

Last Thursday, May 7, the Alberto Fernández administration indicated it would support negotiations with other blocs and countries, proposing to "jointly advance in the new trade agreements but including the necessary safeguards to protect the productive sector and national employment."

Representatives from the other Mercosur nations studied a working paper submitted by the Argentine delegation which, according to the summary of Thursday's meeting, "incorporated elements of agreement between delegations."

"Important details were identified for the progress of the various trade negotiation processes covered by the block's internationalisation agenda," the report said.

The teleconference assessed the courses of action on the negotiations already concluded with the European Union, the ongoing negotiations with Canada, Korea, Singapore and Lebanon, and the deepening of agreements already signed with Israel and India.

Representatives from the Mercosur nations will meet on Tuesday to agree "mechanisms" for future trade talks.

Solá said in an interview on Monday that "we must expand Mercosur but with caution, protecting Argentine steel, cars and electronics because we have internal and economic problems."

-TIMES/AFP

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