A new triple Alliance, but this time against Uruguay

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By Jose Zalazar

A gray cloud hangs over the Uruguayan sky after the strategy of Uruguayan President Louis Lacalle Pou to add his country to the trans-Pacific agreement. A unilateral decision that already has Uruguayan Foreign Minister Francisco Bustillo as issuer on a tour of Australia and New Zealand. This caused the immediate reaction of his peers.

Indeed, Mario Abdo Benítez, Alberto Fernández and Jair Bolsonaro through an official statement released by the Twitter platform warned Uruguay that they will act with the utmost legal rigor to avoid breaking the structural rules of the regional bloc. An unprecedented decision in the three-year life of Mercosur.

«Given the actions of the Uruguayan government with a view to the individual negotiation of trade agreements with a tariff dimension, and taking into account the possible presentation, by the Oriental Republic of Uruguay, of a request for adhesion to the Comprehensive and Progressive Treaty of Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP ), the National Coordinators of Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay before the Mercosur Common Market Group kindly inform the National Coordination of Uruguay that the three countries reserve the right to adopt any measures they deem necessary to defend their interests in the legal and commercial areas”, expresses the official communiqué signed by the foreign ministers of Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina.

The foregoing is due to the fact that in this way Luis Lacalle Pou develops an agenda outside of his commercial partners in Mercosur, violating its contractual principles.

Although there were already precedents a few months ago, Montevideo announced negotiations with China to close a bilateral pact excluding Mercosur. Now it was learned that he is trying to join the Trans-Pacific Agreement led by New Zealand and Australia on his own.

The Trans-Pacific Agreement block is made up of Australia, New Zealand, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam, which implies 13% of world GDP and a market of more than 500 million inhabitants.

Lacalle Pou believes that Mercosur is a commercial bottleneck for Uruguay and has a roadmap that aims to achieve a series of free trade agreements on a global scale.

He has already given the initial kick with Continental China, and now he continues with the Trans-Pacific agreement, despite the strict legal limitations imposed by the current regulations of the Southern Common Market.

The limit established in Mercosur is very clear: «the agreements are made between the four partners and the international counterpart, there are no unilateral actions or diplomatic advances alone» indicates the agreement. For this reason, it drew attention in Buenos Aires, Brasilia and Asunción that Lacalle Pou will advance with the Trans-Pacific Agreement.

There was already a formal protest within Mercosur when Lacalle Pou announced his intentions to sign an agreement with China, but that claim did not discourage the strategy of the Uruguayan head of state.

Next week, in Montevideo, Lacalle Pou will hand over the Pro Tempore Presidency of Mercosur to Alberto Fernández. It will be a complex summit due to the political differences between the two leaders.

Regardless of the presentation that Foreign Minister Francisco Bustillo will make tomorrow in New Zealand to add Uruguay to the Trans-Pacific Agreement. With the reaction expressed in today’s official statement, with the endorsement of Alberto Fernández, Bolsonaro and Abdo Benítez, perhaps we are witnessing a before and after in the thirty years of Mercosur’s institutional life.

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