The rise of Jair Bolsonaro set Argentina on edge. Upon winning Brazil’s presidential elections, the ex-Army captain and current President-elect seemed set on eroding traditional Argentine-Brazilian relations. His pick for Economy Minister Paulo Guedes called the Mercosur trading bloc “not a priority.” Mr. Bolsonaro himself broke long-standing diplomatic protocol, scheduling his first presidential visit to Chile rather than Argentina.
With forecasted contractions of 2.8 percent in 2018 and 1.9 percent in 2019, Southern Cone realignment is the last thing the Mauricio Macri administration needs. Brazil is Argentina’s number one business partner and a major regional influence. Moves by the so-called “Tropical Trump” to pursue a “Brazil First” model would result in severe repercussions across the border.