Brazil’s government to launch commission to unlock South American integration projects

By Thomson Reuters Apr 29, 2024 | 3:17 PM

BRASILIA (Reuters) – Brazil’s government will soon create an interministerial commission chaired by the Planning Ministry to unlock projects for integration in South America, a top official said on Monday.

According to Renata Amaral, secretary of International Affairs and Development, a decree signed by leftist President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva will establish the commission, which will organize internal activity in the federal government to effectively kick-start the projects.

At the end of last year, the government announced that $10 billion would be made available by multilateral and development banks to finance infrastructure projects aimed at advancing South American integration, seeking enhanced trade and reduced transportation time to Asia.

As part of the plans, the development bank BNDES would allocate $3 billion to projects solely in Brazil.

Despite expected polarization in the U.S. presidential election and potential spillover effects into countries in the region, Brazil continues to see strong collaboration from neighbors in discussions about integration projects, including Argentina, Paraguay, and Uruguay, which have right-wing governments, said Amaral.

Seeking to strengthen ties in the region, Lula’s administration settled an unpaid commitment of $100 million to the Structural Convergence Fund of Mercosur (Focem) in late 2023, releasing $70 million to which the country was entitled for the financing, as non-repayable funds, of projects focused on integration and reduction of regional inequalities.

“It’s a signal to Mercosur,” Amaral said about the operation’s rationale, since such regularization, pending since 2015, effectively meant spending more than receiving from the fund.

She argued that the eight projects approved by the government last week to receive the funds will, in parallel, bring gains in trade and infrastructure integration.

Regarding discussions for the Mercosur-European Union agreement, Amaral acknowledged that new developments are unlikely in the short term until the European Parliament elections in June.

(Reporting by Marcela Ayres; editing by Jonathan Oatis)