Argentina’s new government wants to strike EU-Mercosur deal ‘someday, somehow’ -Mondino By Reuters

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© Reuters. Argentine President-elect Javier Milei walks down the steps of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building after meeting with Biden adminstration staff at the White House complex in Washington, U.S., November 28, 2023. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

By Jorgelina do Rosario

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) – Argentina’s incoming government aims to strike a trade agreement between the European Union and Latin American economies, the country’s future Foreign Minister Diana Mondino told Reuters, as a deal under the current administration looks increasingly unlikely.

Mercosur members Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay are set to gather on Dec. 7 in Rio de Janeiro and Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said late last month he hoped an agreement could be reached in time for the meeting.

But officials and diplomats from Brazil, which will hand the rotating presidency of the trade bloc to Paraguay in December, said on Saturday that the trade deal is now postponed as Argentina’s incoming government has to approve the outstanding issues.

“The world doesn’t end on December 7. If an agreement is not reached by that time, we will keep on negotiating,” Mondino said in an interview with Reuters on Saturday in Buenos Aires.

“And hopefully, someday, somehow, it will be done.”

A trade treaty was agreed in principle in 2019 after two decades of talks, but additional environmental commitments demanded by the EU led Brazil and Argentina to seek new concessions that prolonged negotiations.

Mondino added that as President-elect Javier Milei will take office on Dec. 10, the incoming administration has only “scant information” on the current state of negotiations.

“I hope we can bring a different perspective and reach an agreement,” Mondino added.

Argentine negotiators, who were due to travel to Brasilia for a final push to close the deal, canceled their trip, a Brazilian government trade official told Reuters. An Argentine source familiar with the talks said the outgoing government’s negotiating team had “flipped the chessboard” before the handover to Milei.

NO TO BRICS, YES TO OECD

Argentina’s Mondino said it was not a priority to join the BRICS grouping of developing nations, after the second largest South American economy was among six countries invited to become members at a summit in South Africa in August. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Iran are some of the other nations invited.

“The invitation has been sent; there’s no due date. We don’t have to do anything, neither to decline or accept right now,” Mondino said. “If we are wrong, of course, we will review our decision. But so far, we don’t see much of a benefit in joining the BRICS.”

However, Mondino added, Milei’s administration will “definitely” work towards the country’s membership of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

“It’s going to be an extremely lengthy procedure, it is going to be difficult. But we have to abide by the rules of countries that are far more developed than we are,” Mondino said.

“We also have an invitation letter there. And we hope that we can sign that invitation letter,” she added.

Argentina, Peru, Romania, Bulgaria and Croatia were invited to start the process to join the OECD in January 2022. Brazil filed an initial memorandum of accession more than a year ago, a step forward that Argentina has not so far taken.



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