1674700636 Lula sees it as necessary and urgent to finalize the

Lula sees it as “necessary and urgent” to finalize the Mercosur-Europe deal before turning to China

Presidents Lula and Lacalle Pou, this Wednesday in Montevideo, where the Brazilian was on an official visit.Presidents Lula and Lacalle Pou, this Wednesday in Montevideo, where the Brazilian was on an official visit Gaston Britos (EFE)

Tensions within Mercosur, the bloc made up of Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay, marked President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s official visit to neighboring Uruguay this Wednesday, the final leg of his first trip abroad. Lula, who appeared in Montevideo with his counterpart Luis Lacalle Pou, acted as regional leader to urge Uruguay to be patient and allow Mercosur to ratify the trade deal reached with the European Union before the bloc seeks a possible deal with China. Uruguay’s initiative to negotiate independently with the Asian giant – including joining the Trans-Pacific Agreement – has the partners in turmoil.

Lula has reiterated that he believes it is “urgent and necessary for Mercosur to reach an agreement with the European Union”, referring to the 2019 pact which has yet to be ratified. And he added: “What I said to President Lacalle and my ministers is that we will intensify talks with the European Union and sign this agreement so that we can discuss with our Chinese friends a possible China-Mercosur deal”.

The ratification of the Mercosur-EU deal has stalled, largely due to concerns from some European partners over Jair Bolsonaro’s government’s policies in the Amazon. Now, with his resignation from power and the arrival of Lula and his commitment to prioritize the environment, the matter has taken on renewed vigour.

But the demands of Uruguay overlap, which wants to modernize the South American bloc and make it more flexible. And here the Brazilian President showed that charm that characterizes his tireless negotiating style. He has shown himself to be sympathetic to the concerns of his neighbors and an enthusiastic supporter of, first, the technicians; then the ministers and finally the presidents of the bloc sit down to negotiate in order to “renew what needs to be renewed”. Shortly before, he had said: “It’s fair to want to produce more and sell more, and that’s why it’s important to open up as much as possible to the business world.”

Lacalle Pou has reiterated Uruguay’s vocation to belong to Mercosur and its full awareness of its position vis-à-vis its continental neighbor. “No one escapes Brazil’s economic and demographic weight (…) and if there is a decision by President Lula to move forward with China, we can move forward,” he said, France Presse reports. Efe reports that she has promised to keep her partners informed of her contacts with the second world power.

Unlike his predecessor, the Brazilian has made it clear to centre-right Lacalle that ideological affinity, or lack thereof, does not affect his relationship with other heads of state. “Presidents don’t have to think like me, nor do they have to like me,” he declared in a speech that began with a personal thank you for coming to Brasilia on January 1 to take office, accompanied by former President Julio María Sanguinetti and José Mujica, whom he wanted to visit later: “Before I go home, I will stop by Mujica to visit him.”

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The first international tour of Lula, who started his third term as president almost a month ago, ends in Montevideo. Return an attack by thousands of Bolsonaristas on the three powers tried to derail them. The Brazilian took advantage of his participation in the Celac (Community of Latin American and Caribbean States) summit, from which Bolsonaro extracted Brazil in 2020, to make a plea in Buenos Aires in defense of greater regional integration that he wants to lead and that serves as a stepping stone to increase its presence in all kinds of international forums.

The Brazilian once again used football diplomacy in Montevideo like he did in Argentina. “The only thing that hurts me about Uruguay is the 1950 World Cup. But look, that was a long time ago,” he said. This 2-1 score by the guests at the Maracana went down in history as the Macanazo.

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