The election of Javier Milei as Argentina's next president will affect the negotiations over the long-delayed free-trade deal between the European Union (EU) and Mercosur, European MPs in Brussels agreed on Tuesday.
The arrival of Milei to the Presidency “will have an impact because neither he nor anyone in his team believe in multilateralism as a tool to solve common challenges, either in Europe or in Latin America,” argued Mónica González MEP, vice-chair of the European Parliament Delegation for relations with Mercosur.
In the opinion of the Spanish lawmwaker, the EU will have to find a way to keep its programmes in Argentina, such as those aimed at environmental or gender issues, active.
“Traditional cooperation programmes in Argentina are more necessary than ever,” she pointed out, because during Milei’s administration “we will need to sustain and defend Argentine NGOs."
Portuguese MEP María Manuel Leitao Marques, in turn, stated that “if we take into account the rhetoric of Milei’s campaign, we should be very worried, because not only the treaty with the EU, but the very alliance of Mercosur, has been brought into question."
Given that, she added, if that rhetoric “is put into action and transformed into a policy, it might cast serious doubts not only on the EU agreement with Mercosur, but also on the country’s good relationship with the European Union."
At the same time, said Leitao Marques, it is necessary “to defend the EU’s support for civil organisations fighting for human rights, including women’s rights."
Free-trade deal's future
The EU and Mercosur member states (Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay) announced the successful end of talks over a historic free-trade deal in 2019, but the ratification process of the accord stagnated when European countries demanded an additional chapter on environmental issues.
During the government of Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil, negotiations between both blocs were practically paralysed, but they came back to life with the return of veteran leftist Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva to power.
Now, with Milei as Argentine president, there are new doubts about whether the two blocs will reach the agreement this year, as the European Commission, the executive branch of the European Union, demands and expects.
Given this outlook, Miguel Urbán MEP criticised the fact that High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell mentioned the agreement with Mercosur in the release congratulating Milei on his electoral victory.
“The EU makes it clear that, no matter who rules, the interests of European elites are defended,” said the lawmaker, a member of the Euro-Latin American Parliamentary Assembly.
According to him, the EU “is not concerned about whether cats are black or white as long as they keep hunting mice."
Spanish MEP María Eugenia Rodríguez, in the meantime, said that the impact of Milei’s election must be assessed regionally and not only in relation with the deal between the EU and Mercosur.
“It has to be viewed from a structural standpoint, to see what happens if this kind of anti-establishment, anti-democratic and anti-institutional options reproduce with a domino effect in Latin America and Europe,” she added.