In a significant development, Bolivia is poised to become a full-fledged member of the South American Mercosur trade bloc, following the approval of its admission by the Brazilian Senate on Tuesday. This crucial step towards bolstering regional trade ties is expected to be formally ratified during a regional summit scheduled for December 7 in Rio de Janeiro.
Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who currently holds the temporary presidency of Mercosur, expressed his enthusiasm for this expansion via social media. President Lula acknowledged the Brazilian senators for their role in completing the process and extended his congratulations to President Luis Arce and Bolivia for their imminent inclusion in Mercosur.
Bolivia's journey to full membership has been a lengthy one, spanning eight years. Concerns surrounding the strength of Bolivia's democratic institutions had previously impeded its admission.
President Luis Arce of Bolivia conveyed his appreciation for the efforts of President Lula and the Brazilian people, characterizing this milestone as historic for his nation amid global challenges.
Brazilian senators emphasized the positive impact of Bolivia's entry into Mercosur, highlighting its potential to enhance regional integration and open up new markets for Brazilian companies. Bolivia's significant reserves of natural gas, lithium, and other strategic minerals make it a valuable addition to the trade bloc.
The expansion of Mercosur coincides with President Lula's efforts to secure a free trade agreement with the European Union (EU) by the end of the year, despite the EU's additional environmental commitments that have extended negotiations.
The prospects for finalizing the trade agreement with the EU gained momentum following the election of ultra-liberal Javier Milei as the President of Argentina. Milei, a staunch critic of Mercosur, is set to assume office on December 10.
However, critics have raised concerns about Bolivia's poor record in deforestation, which could potentially hinder future EU-Mercosur negotiations. Bolivia ranked among the top offenders in terms of primary forest clearances last year, trailing only behind Brazil and the Democratic Republic of Congo, according to Global Forest Watch, an organization monitoring deforestation rates.
As Bolivia prepares to take its place as a full member of Mercosur, the trade bloc is poised for growth and increased economic cooperation in the region. This development underscores the importance of regional integration and collaboration in a rapidly evolving global trade landscape.