Brazil Trade Minister Says New Argentina Leader 'Music to Our Ears'


NOVEMBER 24, 2015

Santiago. Brazil's trade minister said on Monday that the election of pro-business candidate Mauricio Macri as Argentina's next president is good news for trade relations between the South American neighbors.

Macri, the center-right mayor of Buenos Aires, ended more than a decade of leftist Peronist rule in Sunday's election after promising to overturn the free-spending populism of outgoing President Cristina Fernandez.

"All the signs are positive. (Macri) reaffirms the vision that Brazil is a strategic partner, he backs the position that Mercosur be more open to other international networks," Trade Minister Armando Monteiro told Reuters while on an official trip to Chile's capital Santiago.

"So for us, this is music to our ears."

Mercosur is a customs union comprising Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay and Venezuela.

In his inaugural press conference as president-elect, Macri said he plans to seek Venezuela's suspension from South America's Mercosur trade bloc because of accusations of rights abuses by President Nicolas Maduro's socialist government.

Traditional rivals in many areas beyond soccer, Brazil and Argentina are the economic powerhouses of South America, but trade flows between the two have slowed sharply as both economies struggle following the collapse of a global commodities boom.

"We have trade, that despite having fallen, is still very important, with trade flows of $30 billion. So it is a fundamental relationship," said Monteiro, a businessman-turned-politician in the left-leaning government of President Dilma Rousseff said.

Despite the fact that both Brazil and Argentina have been run by leftists for more than a decade, Brazil has been frustrated by a wall of protectionist policies erected by Fernandez, designed to shield local manufacturers from foreign competitors and defend foreign exchange reserves.

"President-elect Macri has taken a very pro-trade position, more liberal in terms of trade," said Monteiro.

The minister added that Brazil agrees with Macri's position of greater integration between the two large trade blocs in Latin America - Mercosur and the Pacific Alliance, which brings together Mexico, Colombia, Peru and Chile.

Macri has said his first trip abroad will be to Brazil.