Argentina's change of leadership is an opportunity for closer political links and economic ties with Brazil while the two leading South American countries work in the construction of a Mercosur extending from the Caribbean to Patagonia, said Brazil's Foreign Minister, Celso Amorim.
"We are convinced of a central Brasília-Buenos Aires axis because working together for South America strengths us all," said Amorim currently in Buenos Aires for the taking office ceremony of President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner today, December 10.
"The more active Argentina becomes involved in international affairs the better, and the more opportunities for all of us," said Amorim who recalled that Argentina and Brazil have been collaborating for some time now.
"A Brazilian diplomat was part of the Argentine mission in the UN Security Council and vice versa. We worked together in complex trade negotiations, the 2005 Americas summit in Mar del Plata and similarly in negotiations with the European Union."
Amorim admitted that there's certain skepticism about Mercosur, but trade continues to increase and possibly "we should to more to help junior members: this is our great challenge", he said.
Regarding the conflict between Argentina and Uruguay over the construction of pulp mills, the Brazilian official described it as "a family problem," which impacts on the rest, but the origin of the litigation "is a treaty of which Brazil is no part."
As to Mercosur junior members attempt to strike trade deals with third parties, Amorim said that when a small country sits to negotiate with giants such as the United States or Europe, "the price they will have to pay is absurd compared to concessions. It's an illusion to believe that we can't reach an agreement with the EU being integrated."
Further on Amorim said he was "positive" about the region and Mercosur in particular: "we've agreed on the tariffs issue, which is not easy, and we both believe Venezuela must become a full member of the group."
Amorim underlined that Venezuela's incorporation will have a political and commercial impact. Politically because the recent referendum in Venezuela has shown "governance and responsibility" from both sides and regarding trade "yes, Venezuelans are fearful about opening their market."
But Argentina and Brazil are helping Venezuela in the substitution of farm produce (which now is mainly imported from the United States) and "we can work together in the development of industry and agriculture, thus appeasing Caracas fears about a liberalization of tariffs."
Amorim also argued that Mercosur should expand to the "north" because Brazil can't be split in two.
"When Mercosur, the Common Market of the South was created it included Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay and the south of Brazil. But the north of Brazil is not the south and we can't divide Brazil, so our idea is that Mercosur covers all South America, from the Caribbean to Patagonia, with Argentina and Brazil, the main economies as the axis of such a project", indicated the Brazilian official.
Amorim said it's a long term project since "things take their time", but what is important is the "evolution of South America towards a social vision of strengthened democracies. We are all now convinced that sustainable democracy needs the support of social reforms, and that is the path, even when it may not be homogeneous."
Amorim revealed that Venezuela has become Brazil's fifth trading partner behind United States, Argentina, China and Germany.
The Brazilian official also conceded that the Bank of the South, which was officially launched in Buenos Aires this Sunday and is geared to finance development and infrastructure projects, is "another funding alternative."
"Argentina and Brazil are involved in the Andean Promotion Corporation; we're trying to make financing of Brazilians investments in Argentina through our Development Bank more flexible, extending such loans to other country members and obviously we must take advantage of the credibility and experience of the Inter-American Development Bank."