Bolsonaro and Macri Off to a Rocky Start with Brazilian-Argentine Relations

Mercosur issues will loom large in the relationship between Bolsonaro and Macri, who has decided not to attend the new Brazilian president's inauguration.

Jair Bolsonaro’s top officials have discussed making Brazil’s markets more protectionist (PanAm Post).

Jair Bolsonaro will soon be inaugurated as the next president of Brazil. Mauricio Macri’s first term is winding down, but it is still possible that he will stay on for another four year reelection period. What is known, is that the relationship between the two presidents, who will at least overlap for 11 months, did not start off on the right foot.

Recently the G20 Summit was held in Argentina, and although Bolsonaro still had not assumed the presidency, his presence was a possibility, since he will begin his term early next year. But the president-elect did not participate in the event. Rather, scandal-plagued lame duck outgoing head of state, Michel Temer attended.The absence was read by several analysts as the manifestation of a possible distancing in the relationship with Argentina, which could be related to the lack of priority that Bolsonaro has given the Mercosur trade bloc.

Although nothing is concrete as of yet, the man who will occupy the Ministry of Economy of Brazil, Paulo Guedes, already said that his management will include as chief objectives new commercial links with the world. These plans directly affect Argentina, since its northern neighbor is the main trading partner.

As if Guedes’ plans were not enough, Brazil’s incoming agriculture minister would also have an interest in breaking with the regional bloc, but for the opposite reasons: the official would like to “protect” the Brazilian agricultural sector, eliminating the mass influx of Argentine and Uruguayan products into Brazil.

With this uncertain panorama, Macri has already decided to miss Bolsonaro’s presidential inauguration in Brazil. In his stead, the event will be attended by the Argentine Foreign Minister, Jorge Faurie. The official reason for the snub is that the Argentine president had already planned his family vacations with his wife, Juliana Awada.

The international relations of Cambiemos have been characterized by a total pragmatism. The government supported the candidacy of Clinton in the United States, but then closed ranks with Trump. Government officials visited Cuba and showed signs of proffering a friendly relationship with the regime, and despite the supposed ideological differences with his Bolivian counterpart, Evo Morales, Macri was always very friendly with him. Both leaders have played soccer on more than one occasion, even together. In addition, at the last G20 meeting, the Argentine government was criticized for turning a deaf ear to the denunciations against the crown prince of the Saudi throne, who attended the summit and met with Macri.

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