President Cristina Fernández led a productive Summit during which the achievements of the last semester were analysed. Argentina held the Pro Tempore Presidency of the Group, which will transfer to Brazil after this meeting.
Cristina Fernández highlighted the development which this union of countries has had. Remember that beyond the intentions outlined in the Asunción Treaty, which was created on the 26th of March 1991, it began as an agreement between the multinational companies which were operating in the region. They sought to pressure the governments for more beneficial working and tax legislation, regarding the other countries as clients whom they could sell to without taxation. It has now developed into an integration space and it is an alliance which has a strategic character both within and with UNASUR. In President Cristina Fernández’s opinion: “today we have a more comprehensive, inclusive look”.
The presidents of Brazil, Inancio Lula da Silva; Paraguay, Fernando Lugo; Uruguay, José Mujuica; Chile, Sebastián Piñera; and Bolivia, Evo Morales were present. There were also representatives from Venezuela, Peru, Mexico and Ecuador.
Courtesies were exchanged between the presidents of Argentina and Brazil which were not merely diplomatic formalities, but which show the degree of understanding which has been achieved in MERCOSUR. Cristina Fernández thanked Lula Da Silva, whom she called “an eternal friend of Argentina”, for his efforts and said that, along with Néstor Kirchner, he is one of the main driving forces behind the second birth of Mercosur. In turn, Lula praised the efforts of Argentina to resolve their dispute with Uruguay and highlighted the approval of the customs code, both of which are important achievements under the management of Cristina Fernández at the head of MERCOSUR.
Néstor Kirchner was present in his role as general secretary of UNASUR and, significantly, representatives from Mexico and Egypt and the international bodies ALADI, SEGIB, CEPAL, CAF and BID attended as special guests. The CEPAL report is significant as it highlights Argentina’s National Insurance Contribution in terms of employment and social work and shows the decrease in poverty in figures.
The subjects which were highlighted in the agenda were the free trade agreement with Egypt, an objective which was set in 2004, and the deepening of the customs union. In order to achieve this, double-taxation was abolished and a redistribution of the customs income was agreed. The main achievement was the Customs Code “a document, a very important piece of regional legislation” which has been agreed, and which is the result of six years of work.
Subsequently, in a bilateral meeting between the presidents of Argentina and Brazil, advances were made in three key areas: 1. Collaboration for nuclear development; 2. the incorporation of Brazil in Argentina’s claim on the sovereignty of the islands in the Southern Atlantic; and 3. Guidelines were established (San Jan Declaration) to advance in pre-existing negotiations and macroeconomic coordination projects.
The Common Customs Code is an achievement of great importance which has hardly been mentioned by the opposing press in Argentina, in a vain attempt to deny the reality. In the opinion of various presidents, this has been the most important of the MERCOSUR meetings, a feeling which we share.
*translation – Kirsty Cumming*