Argentina’s new government aims to strike EU-Mercosur deal

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Bolivia's Foreign Minister Celinda Sosa Lunda, Paraguay's Foreign Minister Ruben Ramirez, Brazil's Foreign Minister Mauro Vieira, Brazil's Vice President Geraldo Alckmin, Brazil's Minister of Planning Simone Tebet, Uruguay's Foreign Minister Omar Paganini and Argentina's International Affairs Secretary Cecilia Todesca, pose for a group photo during the 63rd Summit of Heads of State of MERCOSUR and Associated States, at the Museu do Amanha (Museum of Tomorrow) in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil December 6, 2023. REUTERS/Pilar Olivares/ File Photo

Argentina’s new government, led by President-elect Javier Milei, is aiming to facilitate a trade agreement between the European Union and Latin American economies.

Diana Mondino, the country’s future Foreign Minister, expressed this ambition amid increasing doubts about a deal under the current administration. Mercosur members, including Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, and Paraguay, are scheduled to meet in Rio de Janeiro on December 7.

However, the Brazilian government, which will hand over the rotating presidency to Paraguay in December, announced a postponement of the trade deal, pending approval from Argentina’s incoming government.

Mondino emphasized in an interview with Reuters that if an agreement is not reached by the scheduled meeting, negotiations will continue beyond December 7. The trade treaty, initially agreed upon in 2019 after two decades of talks, faced delays due to additional environmental commitments demanded by the EU.

Mondino acknowledged that the incoming administration has limited information about the current state of negotiations but expressed hope for a different perspective and eventual agreement.

Argentina’s negotiators, due to travel to Brasilia for a final push to close the deal, had to cancel their trip, according to Reuters, “An Argentine source familiar with the talks said the outgoing government’s negotiating team had “flipped the chessboard” before the handover to Milei”.

In a shift of priorities, Mondino stated that Argentina, under Milei’s administration, does not consider joining the BRICS grouping a priority. Despite being invited, Argentina is taking a cautious approach and will review the decision if necessary.

On the other hand, she confirmed the government’s commitment to work towards Argentina’s membership in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Acknowledging the challenges of the process, Mondino expressed optimism about signing the invitation letter from the OECD, which Argentina received in January 2022 along with other countries like Peru, Romania, Bulgaria, and Croatia. Brazil had taken a step forward in this regard, filing an initial memorandum of accession more than a year ago.

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