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  • Mercosur gathering in 2013 when Venezuela assumed presidency of the regional bloc.

    Mercosur gathering in 2013 when Venezuela assumed presidency of the regional bloc. | Photo: Reuters

Published 20 December 2015

The South American trade bloc Mercosur will meet for the first time since right wing parties have made political gains in the region.

Latin American leaders will head to Paraguay Monday for the upcoming Mercosur summit, where they will address the political and economic challenges in the region, which may include opening up to other markets. 

This will be the bloc’s first meeting since Argentina and Venezuela’s recent elections, which saw right-wing parties come to power for the first time in years, changing regional dynamics. 

RELATED: MERCOSUR: Paving the Way for Latin American Integration

Leaders from all of the participating nations have confirmed their attendance at the conference, including Brasil, Argentina, Uruguay, Bolivia, Venezuela and Paraguay. Chilean President Michelle Bachelet will also attend in attempts to strengthen regional integration, even though Chile is not an official member of Mercosur.  

This will be the first Mercosur -- or Common Market of the South -- meeting since Argentina’s general election, which saw Mauricio Macri and the right-wing Republican Proposal (PRO) party take power. The elections are expected to cause a shift in the blocs dynamics, in which most countries involved have left leaning democratic governments with close ties to Venezuela. 

Macri has already presented some challenges for the trade bloc after he promised last month to expel Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro from the group. Macri, who is a known friend of Venezuelan opposition members, claims President Maduro is wrongfully jailing opposition members. 

The Argentinian president is expected to hold firm on his stance against President Maduro, since the Venezuelan president and the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela lost control of the National Assembly in elections earlier this month. 

Some of Macri’s national policies may prove to be conflicting with the Mercosur trade bloc. In his short time in office, he has already decreased export taxes and changed import rules in Argentina in order to open up the South American country to foreign companies. 

These policies generally go against the Mercosur agenda, which, since its inauguration in 1991, has applied protectionist policies in order to promote interregional trade and strengthen their domestic goods. 

However, the South American leaders Monday are expected to discuss ways to facilitate stagnant intra-regional trade, which may involve reducing trade barriers and advanced integration mechanisms. Some of these include discussing trade possibilities with other mega blocs such as the United States, the European Union, China, Russia, Southeast Asia and India, according to reports by Diario Bae.  

The region has seen some economic challenges, particularly Brazil which has been struck with major inflation and whose economy is expected to shrink by 3.62 percent this year, reported Espectador.  

Earlier this week, 200 representatives from social movements and civil society groups met meet in Paraguay ahead of the 49th Mercosur leaders summit to discuss issues facing the region. These include social security, immigration, food security and labor.

RELATED: Watch Rousseff Rejects Macri Bid to Suspend Caracas from Mercosur

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