Chile, Argentina discuss trade and Venezuela

SANTIAGO – The presidents of Chile and Argentina have pledged to further integrate the countries’ economies and expressed mutual concern about the unrest in Venezuela.

Chile’s Michelle Bachelet met her Argentine counterpart Mauricio Macri at the Palacio de la Moneda in Santiago to discuss bilateral ties and a trade agreement between the two countries.

In a televised press conference, Macri and Bachelet said they were working on an accord to boost cooperation in mining, environmental regulation and infrastructure, among other areas.

“We hope to have an important, new, next-generation economic agreement that facilitates this (integration) process, and makes it more dynamic,” Macri said, while giving few details. The pact should be completed by October, they said.

The Argentine leader said that the two countries were continuing to integrate their energy networks. In 2016 and 2017, Chilean state-run oil company ENAP [ENAP.UL] agreed to send gas to Argentina in significant quantities for the first time.

Bachelet added that the two leaders had discussed the key Agua Negra tunnel, a landmark $1.5 billion project that will connect mining regions in the two countries by digging under the Andes Mountains.

They also shared concerns about “what is happening in Venezuela”.

Before the Tuesday’s meeting with Bachelet, Macri was welcomed by the presidents of both houses of Parliament, the Socialist Deputy Fidel Espinoza and the Christian Democratic Senator Andrés Zaldívar.

After that encounter, Macri said: “I am confident that we can really advance in integration and also in the rapprochement between Mercosur and the Pacific Alliance.”

He added that there was “an admiration of what the Chilean people has done in the last decades, because of the progress and evolution they have had.”

In the afternoon, the Argentine president and his entourage met with senior executives and young Argentine entrepreneurs living in Chile and also met with businessmen and investors to evaluate “Strategies of international insertion of Argentina and integration with Chile.”

Macri flew back to Buenos Aires on the same day.