SANTIAGO – During a phone call on Wednesday, June 17, Chilean President Sebastián Piñera and his Argentine counterpart Alberto Fernández discussed a unified approach for managing the Covid-19 pandemic. The heads of state also spoke of integrating their countries’ energy and telecommunications sectors. They also agreed to deepen their coordination to facilitate the free movement of goods and services between the two nations.
On Wednesday, June 17, the Chilean government released a statement that the leaders of Chile and Argentina were commitment to “strengthening bilateral relations” and deepening cooperation on the health front. “Presidents Piñera and Fernández thoroughly analyzed the Covid-19 situation in the region and agreed on the need to strengthen health cooperation between both countries, and with other bordering nations,” the statement said.
During a phone call, the leaders agreed to work together through each nation’s respective Health Minister to coordinate a plan to manage the pandemic – it is said that they paid particular attention to ways to detect the virus early.
In the context of a unified approach, the presidents acknowledged the importance of coordination to “allow for the continued free movement of goods and services” through physical infrastructure as well as digitally. Their conversation also touched on longer term ramifications of the pandemic, and they reportedly discussed “social protection and economic recovery” for both nations.
In terms of their “bilateral agenda,” the presidents agreed on the need to “increase integration in the energy sectors and in telecommunications under the Trade Liberalization Agreement.” Furthermore, the leaders concurred that they would “accelerate facilitation at border crossings” by implementing “simplified migration and customs systems.”
Piñera and Fernández also addressed various issues of regional integration and coordination with other countries in South America.
These developments come after public discord between the two nations in April, after Fernández met with Chilean opposition parties, resulting in the Argentinian ambassador being summoned by the Chilean government.
Even before the dispute in April, center-left Peronist Fernández and center-right Piñera have had numerous public disagreements, which in December 2019 resulted in the Chilean president writing a press release demanding that the recently-elected Fernández abstain from commenting on Chilean domestic policy, MercoPress reported.
Nevertheless, during Wednesday’s phone call both presidents found common ground in their attitudes to Covid-19, economic integration, and free movement, and they reiterated their interest in “continuing to strengthen the friendship between Chile and Argentina.”
Shanti is a multilingual journalist, with a keen interest in Latin American politics, economics, and culture. Having studied languages and media at Cambridge University and Universidade de São Paulo respectively, she then gained editorial experience in the documentary film industry, with a specific focus on South American affairs. You can find her on Twitter @shantidurocher.