The foreign ministries of Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay issued a joint note stating that they can take “measures” to “defend their interests” given the intention of their other Mercosur partner, Uruguay, to present a request for adhesion to the Comprehensive Treaty and Progressive Partnership Trans-Pacific (CPTPP) without considering the other members of the South American bloc.
According to a statement released by the Argentine Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the representatives of Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay informed Uruguay “that the three countries reserve the right to adopt any measures they deem necessary to defend their interests in the legal and commercial fields”.
The letter was presented this Wednesday by the national coordinators of the three countries before the Mercosur Common Market Group.
Uruguayan Foreign Minister Francisco Bustillo is on an official trip to Oceania, where he plans to present in New Zealand the formal request for Uruguay’s accession to the Trans-Pacific Agreement, as reported by President Luis Lacalle Pou during a meeting held on November 18 with representatives of different Uruguayan political parties.
Through an eventual entry into the Trans-Pacific Agreement, Uruguay would seek preferential conditions for access to markets such as Japan, where today Uruguayan beef enters with average tariffs of over 30%.
It also aims to obtain a better position in Asian markets against direct competitors in agricultural products such as Australia and New Zealand, which are already members of the CPTPP.
LACALLE POU’S AGENDA AND THE CROSSROADS WITH ALBERTO FERNÁNDEZ
The new dispute occurs days before the next Mercosur summit, which will be on December 5 and 6 in Montevideo. But it is not the first time that Lacalle Pou’s intention to advance an opening agenda outside the regional bloc has generated crossroads with his partners.
Lacalle Pou also promotes that Uruguay advance in a Free Trade Agreement with China and another with Turkey. In particular, the agreement with China is the one that generated the greatest resistance from Argentine President Alberto Fernández. The president-elect of Brazil, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, has not yet expressed a concrete position on the matter.
The repeated requests from Uruguay to “make Mercosur more flexible generated a direct cross between Fernández and Lacalle Pou at a summit of presidents of the bloc held by videoconference on March 26, 2021.
“We do not want to be anyone’s burden, if we are a burden, they can take another ship, but we are nobody’s burden,” Fernández said on that occasion before a claim by Lacalle Pou.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO “MAKE MERCOSUR MORE FLEXIBLE”?
Uruguay understands the idea of making Mercosur “flexible” as obtaining the consent of the bloc’s partners so that one of the members can advance in trade agreements with third countries, without the need for the others to go hand in hand.
Argentina has reiterated on more than one occasion that a type of agreement like the one promoted by Uruguay with the Asian giant damages the founding bases of the bloc.
Meanwhile, the Uruguayan government has signaled that it would go ahead with its openness agenda anyway, even if the Mercosur partners disagreed.
With information from Bloomberg Línea