December 12, 2013
South American officials and ports call to strengthen integration
Argentine shipping industry businessmen urge more protection against foreign dumping, while accusing government officials of ‘lying’
Officials and private port leaders from South America are demanding the strengthening of regional integration and a solution to waterway asymmetries which mostly favour Paraguay to the detriment of Argentina while representatives of the local shipping industry are urging more protection, alleging that the administration’s policies are merely cosmetic.
The claims were made at the “Second International Forum Rosario Ports, axis of the Mercosur” held at Rosario, 300 kilometres northwest of Buenos Aires, in late September. The forum was sponsored by ENAPRO, a non-state, self-governing agency which runs the Rosario port complex along the River Paraná and accounting for about 77 percent of breadbasket Argentina’s grain and oilseed exports. ENAPRO’s Commercial and Operations Manager Pedro Manno has said that Rosario wants to position itself as a node in the Paraguay-Paraná rivers waterway stretching from Cáceres in Brazil to Nueva Palmira, in Colonia, Uruguay. (See Herald story on August 19).
CALLS FOR INTEGRATION
Argentina’s Under-Secretary of Ports and Waterways Horacio Tettamanti told the forum that, “as President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner has put it, the time of water transport has arrived.” He told some 500 present that the Mercosur members should work together to “replace the overwhelming number of problems with co-operation.”
Rosario’s Terminal 6 Port Manager Pablo Jukic said that the asymmetries have resulted in 75 percent of the ships serving the waterway being Paraguayan-flagged, while only 15 percent are Argentine-flagged, the rest being those from Brazil, Bolivia, and even Panama.
Separately, he said that is is “not far-fetched” to think that by 2020 Argentina, Brazil — in its waterway tranche — Paraguay and Uruguay will together handle 180-200 million tons of cargo versus about 100 million tons at present and that the four nations should reach accords to face that challenge.
Tettamanti, for his part, said that “we are fighting for a fairer, freer and more sovereign Latin America,” hailing the readmission of Paraguay into Mercosur last April after the rest of the trade bloc’s full members — Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and Venezuela — suspended it last year as a consequence of what they described a coup d’état whereby the Congress ousted then President Fernando Lugo on charges of malfeasance due to riots which resulted in the killing of 17 people.
Héctor Duarte Chávez, the head of Paraguay’s Navigation and Ports National Administration (ANNP), said that the new administration of President Horacio Cartes was “resolved to install a new image in line with Fernández de Kirchner’s efforts to foster the unity of Latin America.”He added that Paraguay is “really aware of the importance of the waterway which handles 80 percent of all the cargo coming into and going out from Paraguay, a landlocked country.”
He said that the ANNP was talking to “the marvellous” Argentine Ports and Navigation officials to face new integration challenges to "allow Paraguay to co-ordinate efforts with Argentina and Uruguay to handle its cargoes through international ports and free trade zones."
Duarte Chávez called on the region to “leave aside nonsense and focus on what really matters,” listing among the leading issues the dredging of the shared-sovereignty tranches of the waterway. He said that the Paraguayan cargoes through the Paraná-Paraguay waterway grew from 700,000 tons in 1988 to 20 million tons last year and that it is projected to grow to 40 million tons by 2020. Ricardo dos Santos, the head of Paraguay’s CATERPPA port and terminals lobby, said that 27 national and international companies are operating the country’s 38 terminals.
Alfredo Sesé, of the Rosario Stock Market, said that in 2010 the Paraná-Paraguay waterway tranche between Confluencia (in the Argentine province of Chaco) and Santa Fe handled 15 million tons of cargo, a number projected to grow to 24 million tons by 2015. He also said that Brazilian and Paraguayan authorities should build locks in their binational Itaipú dam as “it is a waterway with huge growth potential.”
For his part, Alberto Díaz, the head of Uruguay’s National Ports Authority (ANP), said: “Port integration requires a true regional integration, it is not enough with just words.”
“The key to a win-win situation resides in strengthening navigation, improving regional connectivity, providing the production system with outlets and understanding that the political action in the territory of each country may have consequences in the political field of the other country, and that failing to improve infrastructure entails the failure of the system. We cannot talk about co-operation among countries when there are people who block a bridge whenever they want.”
Argentine demonstrators for years intermittently closed the three bridges linking Argentina and Uruguay while locked in a diplomatic dispute about a Finnish pulp mill built in Uruguay that took the two nations the The Hague-based World Court. This month the conflict ballooned again after Uruguay announced that it was allowing the plant to increase production. Argentina alleges that the mill is contaminating its environment.
Separately, Díaz said that the Uruguayan and Argentine authorities have agreed to keep the depth of the Martín García binational channel of access to the River Plate at 32-feet trough dredging.
‘BUEN DÍA, GOOD MORNING, BON DIA’
For his part, Armando Duarte Peláez, from Colombia, the outgoing Chairman of the Board of the Latin American delegation to the American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA), called for the integration of Mercosur with the Pacific Alliance formed by Chile, Colombia, Peru and Mexico, and now also Panama and Costa Rica.
“We are fated to work together,” he said. “The Latin American dawn is coming. Europe, who has been our teacher, is the past. The United States are the present. We, the "despicable little South Americans,’ are the future. We have all the resources running out in the rest of the world. We have the food, the resources, the water... mind the water. In 30 years from now wars will be about water, not oil.”
Mercosur has twice the area and population density of the Pacific Alliance and a better per capita income. However, the Alliance has better human development indicators, Duarte Peláez said, adding that with just a little er part of their income ports should contribute to a fund for the destitute.
He said that after joining forces, the two Latin American blocs should seek strategic alliances with Western Europe “with whom we share the same culture and philosophy. We don’t need to resort to third or fourth powers.”
He warned that huge blocs are forming in Asia.
“For example, China, Japan and Southern Korea are competing against us with tremendous hypocrisy.”
He added that the Americas should leave aside ideologies and unite.
“Otherwise, we will end up being dominated by deeply different cultures.”
Duarte Peláez announced that Hugo Borelli, the head of the Managing Authority of the port of Bahía Blanca, in Buenos Aires province, was replacing him as AAPA Latin American delegation head at the 102nd AAPA Annual Convention being held in Orlando, Florida, since yesterday until Thursday.
He urged Latin American port officials to flock to Orlando to show the US their support for Borelli, and announced that the region will strive to hold the next forum in the Andean resort of Bariloche, Argentina, thanking ENAPRO, and Zulma Dinelli for her “bridging” role in organizing the Rosario forum and fostering the Bariloche initiative.
"’Buen día, good morning, bon dia’: three languages encompassing 33 countries. The same number of European countries, 33, have at least 27 languages and they are working together. Can it be possible that we are unable to do so?,” Duarte Peláez said.
Meanwhile, Miguel Angel Alvarez, the Executive Secretary of the Santa Fe CASIN shipping industry chamber, said that after listening to Tettamanti’s remarks, he had the impression that the official was referring to “a virtual” world.
He added that either by action or omission, Argentina failed to question an Inter-American Development Bank credit which, instead of going to Argentine companies, finally went to a Brazilian firm to build tug-boats in Turkey and barges in China, barges that, he added, were being delivered to the region at dumping prices.
Alvarez said: “Some officials are saying that for the first time parties involved in the local shipping industry are together. But that is a lie.”