All Smiles in Brasilia as Macri and Bolsonaro Reset Relationship

(Bloomberg) -- South America’s two largest countries are more united than ever, Argentine President Mauricio Macri declared during an official visit to Brasilia that sought to reset relations with President Jair Bolsonaro after an awkward start.

Warm speeches from both sides sought to leave behind the initial tension in their relationship. Macri’s absence from Bolsonaro’s inauguration on Jan. 1 did not go unnoticed by Brasilia, while Brazilian Finance Minister Paulo Guedes’ insistence that the Mercosur customs union was not one of his priorities also riled Argentine officials. But that appeared to be forgotten as the two presidents discussed boosting trade, fighting crime and nuclear energy.

"This meeting shows our willingness to work together," said Macri after their meeting at Planalto presidential palace. He described the atmosphere in Wednesday’s meeting as "sensational", though there was an uncomfortable moment when the Argentine president exited the presidential palace unaccompanied, in a break with diplomatic tradition.

For his part, Bolsonaro said that Macri’s visit marked a new chapter in relations between the two countries, adding that Brazil would work to strengthen ties with Argentina.

The common task now at hand is to "modernize" and "improve" Mercosur after decades of protectionism, both leaders said without giving much detail on just how two of the world’s most-sheltered economies will work together to reform the four-nation customs union including Uruguay and Paraguay.

Meanwhile clinching a trade deal with the European Union after more than a decade of talks should be a top priority, Macri said.

"Mercosur needs to realize trade and investment opportunities," added his Brazilian counterpart.

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