PRESIDENTS OF BRAZIL AND ARGENTINA MEET

Construction of a bridge over the Uruguay River border is expected to be just one of the results of meetings today in Buenos Aires between Argentina's President Carlos Saul Menem and Brazil's Fernando Collor de Mello. Meant to link the Brazilian city of Sao Borja with Argentina's Santo Tom'e, the bridge symbolizes a new, more dynamic phase in the countries' efforts to set up a trade bloc.

The presidents are expected to announce a decision to push up the date for economic integration to 1994, from 1999.

``The need for integration is getting more and more clear,'' says a Brazilian Foreign Ministry official. ``We have to compete with the big markets that are being created in Europe and North America.... We are finding out that it's not worth subsidizing Brazilian wheat if Argentina can produce it cheaper.''

In 1985, Argentina and Brazil agreed to reduce trade barriers, moving toward a common market by 1999. Trade between the two is expected to reach $2 billion this year, up from $1.1 billion in 1985.

Presidents Menem and Collor are expected to announce a new list of additional tariff-free machinery and foods, a framework for binational companies, and a new information and personnel exchange policy in the area of nuclear energy.

Despite growing consensus at the top, the move to freer trade finds resistance among many bureaucrats and businessmen in both countries.

Stumbling blocks are normal, says Natalio Jamer, head of the Argentine embassy's trade bureau in Sao Paulo. ``The only beneficiary is the consumer.'' Shoppers in both countries, he says, will increasingly find imported dairy products, honey, mayonnaise, wine, fruit, and coffee on sale, while industry will trade more and more machinery and parts.

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