July 14, 2024

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Mercosur leaders welcome Bolivia, seek to open up to China and be partners with Panama

Mercosur leaders welcome Bolivia, seek to open up to China and be partners with Panama

As a first step, Panama’s President José Raúl Molino has officially announced his country’s interest in participating in Mercosur, without specifying the number.

By Evie

The heads of state of Mercosur concluded their semi-annual meeting on Monday in Asuncion to transfer the rotating presidency, welcoming Bolivia as a member, looking to establish contacts with China with a view to reaching a trade agreement as a bloc and possibly adding Panama as a partner.

With the help of the Presidents of Brazil, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva; Uruguay, Luis Lacalle Pou; Bolivia, Luis Arce; and host Santiago Peña, the 64th Summit of Heads of State of the Southern Common Market (Mercosur) and associated countries concluded with a call for greater integration, although the absence of Argentine President Javier Milei remained a concern.

“Our integration process must be above these possible and legitimate differences in political vision,” Peña said in his speech.

He noted in a conciliatory tone that the bloc’s problems and challenges “cannot be solved outside of it.” “They are solved with more Mercosur.”

Without the following

When asked by reporters, Peña previously admitted that he had not been able to convince Miley to come to Asuncion, but considered that “the integration process does not stop.”

Another reason was the reaction of his fellow representative of Uruguay, who took over the interim presidency of the bloc from Paraguay.

“If Mercosur is important, all the presidents should be here,” said Lacalle Pou, who “in theory” defended the mechanism’s union.

The Argentine leader did not attend his first Mercosur summit after falling out with Lula and calling his country’s condemnation of the coup in Bolivia “false.”

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Lula, referring to Mayele in his speech, stressed that it makes no sense to resort to “old nationalism and isolationism” or to revive “extreme liberal experiments that have exacerbated inequality in our region.”

Welcome to Bolivia

For his part, the Bolivian leader received support from his fellow attendees after the failed coup attempt on June 26.

In his speech, Arce thanked the “majority of countries” in the region and the international community for their solidarity.

The president acknowledged that “the risk of shortening my mandate by any means has not disappeared,” calling for integration “based on respect for the political system and the type of governments that the people sovereignly elect.”

“No coup is acceptable,” Argentine Foreign Minister Diana Mondino said, without elaborating. “No attack on democracy can be accepted.”

From European “contradictions” to other markets

Negotiations with the European Union also deserved a chapter in the presidents’ discussion, as they have remained stagnant after a quarter of a century.

“We simply did not conclude the agreement with the European Union because the Europeans have not yet been able to resolve their internal contradictions,” said Lula, who pushed for the agreement when he took over the EU presidency last year.

He was opposed by Lacalle Pou, who complained about “the approach of some presidents, especially French President Emmanuel Macron, to renegotiate ‘the return of everything’.”

“It doesn’t seem logical after 25 years of reform and work to renegotiate everything,” said the Uruguayan, for whom Mercosur is “more willing to move forward” than Europe.

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In any case, the region has left the doors open for comprehensive negotiations with China, without affecting Paraguay’s relationship with Taiwan, rapprochement with Panama, and exploration of new markets in Asia.

As a first step, Panama’s President José Raúl Molino has officially announced his country’s interest in participating in Mercosur, without specifying the number.

“I say yes, Mr. President, we want to participate,” Molino told Peña, who invited the Panamanian leader to Asuncion, his first international destination since his inauguration on July 1.

Molino said there was an attempt at rapprochement in 2020. According to a statement issued in October of that year by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Asuncion, the then ambassadors of Paraguay, Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay to that country expressed interest in negotiating an agreement to sign a free trade agreement.