Photo: Presidents meet during the 62nd Mercosur Summit. Photo: Ricardo Stuckert

Next Monday (8), President Lula will participate in the 64th Summit of Heads of State of Mercosur and Associated States. The meeting will take place in Asunción, Paraguay, and the following day, Tuesday (9), the Brazilian leader will travel to Santa Cruz de La Sierra, Bolivia, where he will meet with President Luis Arce.

This Summit marks an important milestone in the announcement of Bolivia’s definitive entry as a full member of the group, along with Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay (Venezuela has been suspended since 2017).

According to Ambassador Gisela Padovan, Secretary for Latin America and the Caribbean at the Brazilian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the expectation is that the Bolivian president will ratify access to Mercosur.

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According to the Brazilian government, the economic bloc currently has a GDP of US$2.86 trillion, which is equivalent to the 7th largest economy in the world. Brazil alone ranks eighth and President Lula expects the country to reach sixth place on its own, which is also in the group’s interest.

Furthermore, it is highlighted that the member countries are 67% of the territory of South America and that Brazil had a trade surplus of US$ 6.5 billion in business with Mercosur partners.

Mercosur, created 33 years ago, will have its temporary presidency changed from Paraguay to Uruguay.

Bolivia in Mercosur

Bolivia’s entry into the South American economic group began to take shape after approval by the Brazilian Senate in November of last year and subsequent promulgation by Lula. The other member countries had already approved the country’s entry.

With the completion of Bolivia’s entry, the country will have a four-year transition period in which it must cancel bilateral agreements with members of the bloc in order to be incorporated into the Common External Tariff, Mercosur Origin Regime and the group’s common nomenclature regimes.

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The participation of the Andean country brings greater momentum to regional integration, especially in the Southern Cone, and increases the bloc’s market with its large reserves of gas, lithium and minerals. For Brazil, this is an area to be developed jointly and of special interest since the countries share 3,400 kilometers of borders.

One example of this harmonious coexistence is the construction of the Brazil-Bolivia bridge, scheduled for this year. The 1.22 km project over the Mamoré River in Rondônia aims to establish another bioceanic route and fulfill an agreement established 120 years ago with Bolivia.

Irrelevant absence

Argentine President Javier Milei has announced that he will not participate in the Mercosur Summit. During his presidential campaign, he made the claim that he would withdraw the country from the group. However, he was advised to discard the idea, leaving it as just another boast to please the far-right electorate.

He will be represented in Mercosur by Chancellor Diana Mondino, who has already met with Lula to smooth things over in bilateral relations between the countries.

Brazilian ambassador Gisela Padovan told the press that the absence is regrettable, but that it does not change the Summit in any way.

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Despite this, Brazilian diplomacy continues to monitor Milei’s steps, as he is expected to meet with former Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro on Brazilian soil at a far-right event. In other words, he prefers to continue radicalizing his positions rather than governing his country alongside other leaders in Mercosur.

The losers are the Argentine people, who are already facing a serious economic recession with a GDP drop of 5.1%.

Lula in Bolivia

Following his visit to Paraguay, Lula will travel to Bolivia for his first trip to the neighboring country during his third term. There, he will hold closed meetings and participate in a public event in which cooperation agreements between the countries will be signed.

The Brazilian presence in the country also serves as support after the recent coup attempt. Lula commented on the case and expressed his solidarity in an interview with Itatiaia radio: “I am going there to strengthen Luis Arce, to strengthen democracy and to show businesspeople that it is very important for Bolivia to remain governed democratically. If this is not the case, Bolivia will not even be able to join Mercosur.”

Luis Arce and Lula. Photo: Ricardo Stuckert.


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