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BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — Argentina's newly established leading presidential contender is throwing doubt on a newly signed regional trade pact with Europe and also feuding with one of his country's partners in the deal, the far-right president of neighboring Brazil.
Alberto Fernández thumped President Mauricio Macri by 15 percentage points in Sunday's primary voting — making his slate, which includes ex-President Cristina Fernández as his running mate, the clear leader for October's main election and prompting a stock market collapse among investors worried about their left-leaning populist policies.
Fernández raised doubts Monday night about the European Union's trade deal with the South American trade bloc Mercosur that was signed in June but not yet ratified.
"That agreement doesn't exist, never existed," he told Net TV. "They signed a sort of protocol letter in which they set out a series of topics to deal with."
The agreement has alarmed European farmers and South American manufacturers and service providers who fear they cannot compete with goods produced by the other partner in the deal.
Fernández said there is "no doubt" the world has globalized, "and to renounce that is a stupidity, to deny that is a stupidity. The issue is how you enter into globalization."
"We have to see what this agreement consists of," he added. He said there are some early indications that some aspects of the deal would be "disadvantageous for Argentina. If those things are fixed, welcome for Argentina."
Meanwhile, he heated up a feud with Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who has suggested that a Fernández government would be a disaster that would flood Brazil with Argentine refugees in the same way Venezuelans have fled their own country's economic collapse.
"In political terms, I have nothing to do with Bolsonaro," Fernández said, describing Brazil's leader as "a racist, a misogynist and violent, the sort of person who celebrates the torture of Dilma Rousseff" — a reference to Bolsonaro's praise for a man accused of overseeing the torture of Brazil's former leftist president.
Even so, Fernández said, "We are going to get on splendidly with Brazil. It is always going to be our principal partner."
He also had critical words for the socialist government of Venezuela, which was a close ally of his running mate when she was president in 2007-2015. Macri has warned that the Fernándezes, who are not related, would make Argentina a sort of Venezuela.
"It's a government with a democratic origin, because the people voted, but in the practice it has definitely committed abuses," Fernández said of Venezuela.
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