Uruguay on Monday formally unveiled a proposal to its Mercosur partners that would make the trade negotiations more flexible and allow each country to enter into agreements unilaterally with third parties.
According to the draft document released by the Foreign Ministry in Montevideo, the proposal would allow member states, under some conditions, to initiate negotiations "either as a group or individually."
"The countries that start negotiations must inform the GMC [Common Market Group, the Mercosur’s Executive body] of the beginning of talks, providing the information requested. Likewise, they must keep the GMC informed about the evolution and progress of negotiations," reads the proposal.
The Uruguayan initiative will be discussed at an extraordinary meeting of the Common Market Council (CMC), chaired by Argentina, which will take place Monday virtually and behind closed doors. Each member nation’s foreign and economic ministers are due to participate.
Uruguay and Paraguay are both seeking to redraw Mercosur’s internal rules that prevent each country from seeking trade agreements with third parties without the consent of the other partners.
Since the formation of the "Common Market of the South" in 1991, its four partners of the bloc – Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay – have not been able to agree a common external tariff, and in 2000, a resolution (32/2000) established that member states must "negotiate jointly."
"Mercosur moves by consensus and that is an issue that is not minor when it comes to analysing Mercosur’s decisions: there is no voting," Uruguayan President Luis Lacalle Pou told reporters this Monday.
"If everyone does not agree, Mercosur does not advance. Precisely what we are proposing will directly attack that point: those who do not want to advance for a certain reason give room to any of the partners to advance," he added.
The initiative will likely be initially opposed by Argentina. Alberto Fernández clashed with his Uruguayan counterpart during a summit marking the bloc's 30th anniversary on March 26.
The tension made itself felt when Lacalle Pou said that Mercosur “cannot be a burden nor corset” preventing the commercial advance of his country, expressing frustration.
“If we’re a burden, take another boat,” Fernandez responded later in his own speech.