Presidents meet at Mercosur summit. Photo: Ricardo Stuckert

President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva assumed, this Tuesday (4), the temporary presidency of Mercosur for the next six months. At the inauguration ceremony, held during the bloc’s summit, in Puerto Iguazu, Argentina, Lula gave a forceful speech in defense of the union and sovereignty of Latin American countries in the face of neocolonialist initiatives by European powers, for the strengthening of democracy and the fight for equality.

“The world is increasingly complex and challenging. No country will solve its problems alone, nor can it remain aloof from humanity’s great dilemmas. We have no alternative other than unity,” said Lula.

Faced with the climate crisis, he stressed, “it is necessary to act in coordination in the protection of our biomes and in the just ecological transition. In the face of wars that bring destruction, suffering and impoverishment, it is necessary to speak of peace. In a world increasingly guided by geopolitical competition, our regional option must be cooperation and solidarity”.

The president also spoke about combating the politics of hate and violence encouraged by the extreme right inside and outside Brazil. “Faced with the rise of hatred, intolerance and lies in politics, it is urgent to renew Mercosur’s historic commitment to the rule of law. As democratically elected presidents, we are challenged to stand up to all those who try to appropriate and pervert democracy. I am convinced that building a more democratic and participatory Mercosur is the way to go”.

common currency

Mercosur meeting and Lula’s inauguration. Photo: Ricardo Stuckert

Addressing the trade issues involving the bloc, Lula highlighted that “the adoption of a common currency to carry out compensation operations between our countries will contribute to reducing costs and further facilitating convergence. I am talking about a specific reference currency for regional trade, which will not eliminate the respective national currencies”.

Lula also defended the expansion and improvement of agreements with neighboring countries such as Chile, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru, as well as the resumption of an “ambitious external agenda” with the objective of increasing access to markets for export products from the bloc’s countries.

He also expressed the desire to explore new negotiation fronts with partners such as China, Indonesia, Vietnam and countries in Central America and the Caribbean. “The proliferation of unilateral trade barriers perpetuates inequalities and harms developing countries,” he explained.

European Union

Regarding the agreement with the European Union, Lula emphasized: “I am committed to concluding the agreement with the European Union, which must be balanced and ensure the necessary space for the adoption of public policies in favor of productive integration and reindustrialization. The Additional Instrument presented by the European Union in March of this year is unacceptable”.

Read too: Lula classifies the EU’s demands for an agreement with Mercosur as a threat

The president again emphasized that “strategic partners do not negotiate based on distrust and the threat of sanctions.” He also stated that it was imperative that Mercosur “present a quick and forceful response” and added: “It is inadmissible to give up the purchasing power of the State – one of the few instruments of industrial policy that we have left. We have no interest in agreements that condemn us to the eternal role of exporters of raw materials, ores and oil”.

Lula also defended that it is necessary to establish policies that contemplate a “deep regional integration, based on qualified work and the production of science, technology and innovation”.

Intra-Mercosur trade

As for the management of President Alberto Fernandez at the head of Mercosur, which ended today, Lula recalled the achievements obtained by the Argentine, such as the results obtained with the revision of the Regime of Origin, the negotiation of an Agreement on matters of Family Law and the holding of another edition of the Business Forum.

He also said that he intends to improve the Common External Tariff and prevent non-tariff barriers from compromising the flow of trade. “In 2022, intra-Mercosur trade totaled 46 billion dollars. It is not little, but it is below the peak registered in 2011, of 52 billion dollars. We are short of our potential,” he added.

The president also pointed out that trade between the bloc’s countries is characterized by the significant presence of higher value-added products and added that this “is an asset that needs to be valued and expanded” and defended the resumption of the Mercosur Social Summit. “It is inconceivable that we have set this valuable space aside for nearly seven years,” he lamented.

Read too: For Lula, the EU’s proposal for an agreement with Mercosur is unacceptable

Lula also defended that “fighting the resurgence of protectionism in the world implies rescuing Mercosur’s leading role in the World Trade Organization. We will work to mobilize resources from national banks and regional development organizations, such as CAF, Fonplata and the IDB, to finance physical and digital infrastructure projects”.

He also stressed that “with the Green Agenda, we started a permanent exercise of discussion on topics such as desertification, firefighting and recovery of degraded soils, which will be the object of coordinated actions by the bloc in favor of sustainable development”.

citizen agenda

At the end of his speech, Lula stressed that Mercosur “cannot be limited to the bargain of ‘how much do I sell you and how much do you sell to me’. It is necessary to recover a citizenship and inclusive agenda, with a human face, that generates tangible benefits for broad sectors of our societies”.

Lula emphasized that “our integration must be solidary and awaken the feeling of belonging. Our integration must also be feminine, black, indigenous, peasant and working”.

The president highlighted the sanction, this Monday (3), of the Equal Salary and Remuneration Law, pointing out that in this way Brazil “begins to settle a historic debt. Men and women who perform the same function will be paid the same. This is a great achievement for Brazilian women”. And he concluded: “This is the Mercosur that we want and that has returned to the center of the Brazilian strategy for insertion in the world”.


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