La Paz, Mar 11 (efe-epa).- Argentina and Bolivia on Thursday relaunched their bilateral relationship with an emphasis on trade, investment and political ties, within the framework of the official visit to La Paz of Argentine Foreign Minister Felipe Sola, who said that achieving this emphasis requires that Mercosur approve the entry of La Paz as a full member of the trade bloc at its next summit.
Sola arrived in the Bolivian capital on Wednesday night and began his official agenda on Thursday by meeting privately with his Bolivian counterpart, Rogelio Mayta.
“We had a workday that was more than interesting, where we dealt with many important issues in the relationship,” the Argentine official said after being presented with an honorary decoration by Mayta.
The two men emphasized their countries’ joint struggle in fighting the Covid-19 pandemic, including purchasing vaccine and testing equipment, with the first allotment of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine arriving on Thursday in Buenos Aires, where a Bolivian BoA jet picked it up and brought it to Bolivia.
Sola also met with Bolivian President Luis Arce and the country’s trade and investment committees.
The Argentine expressed his country’s commitment to bring Bolivia into Mercosur as a full member, saying that the issue will be discussed at the regional trade bloc’s March 26 summit in Buenos Aires.
“We hope there to ratify Bolivia’s entry as a full associated state” he said, noting that Argentina holds the six-month rotating presidency for the bloc.
Sola said that although Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay support Bolivia’s entry into the bloc, the matter has been delayed in the Brazilian Congress.
Bolivia and Argentina signed a general cooperation, integration and brotherhood accord to define the bilateral relationship for the next 10 years.
The pact focuses on cooperation and integration on infrastructure, border integration, transportation agreements, nuclear power cooperation, especially in the defense industry, energy integration and production chains linked to the mining of lithium.
“We believe that there’s an important and developed technological extraction capability in Bolivia and both our countries want broad cooperation in technology, which later can lead to joint production” of lithium, Sola said.
The Argentine government is seeking to increase trade in cold-storage units and medical supplies, as well as to increase sales of vehicles and agricultural technology.
Argentine exports to Bolivia totaled $523 million in 2020, down from $617 million the year before.
The two governments also agreed to work on cooperation in defending human rights, protecting the environment, social development and politics in general.
Mayta reiterated Bolivia’s thanks to Argentina and Sola for helping former President Evo Morales, who after the 2019 crisis in La Paz took refuge in the neighboring country for almost 11 months, during which time relations between Buenos Aires and the interim Bolivian government of Jeanine Añez were frozen.
Sola, in turn, thanked Bolivia for its “traditional support” for Argentina’s claim of sovereignty over the Falkland Islands, known in Argentina as the Malvinas.
Accompanying Sola is an entourage including Argentina’s cabinet chief, Guillermo Chaves; International Economic Relations Secretary Jorge Neme, Assistant Secretary for Latin American Affairs Juan Carlos Valle and Ambassador to Bolivia Ariel Basteiro, who had headed the Argentine Embassy in La Paz from 2012-2015.