Ever since the signing of the 1991 Treaty of Asuncion, the consolidation of MERCOSUR has fostered cooperation and complementarity between the governments and economic and social actors of its member countries. The adoption of common rules and the growing interdependence between MERCOSUR companies have contributed to multiplying the volume of trade within the bloc, while the provision of infrastructure and financing tools has laid the foundations for greater physical and productive integration, which is the main challenge facing the regional group.
MERCOSUR is also a catalyst for shared principles and values, which, in the last decades, has favoured the consolidation of democratic institutions in the region and the links between our peoples through joint agendas on education, health, employment and science.
As a platform for economic development and political coordination, MERCOSUR is a fundamental channel to define regional strategies and policies that may provide certainty and greater leeway to our countries in international negotiations. In an ever-changing global scenario, the shared willingness to move towards a positive integration agenda, based on the international creation and projection of productive and technological capabilities, the promotion of innovation and the creation of quality jobs, is a key element to continue to strengthen MERCOSUR as a tool capable of improving the lives of our citizens, as well as to overcome inequality within the bloc.
Our integration process has also advanced through various external negotiations, such as those with the European Union, EFTA, Canada, South Korea, Singapore, Israel and Lebanon. It is also currently considering the prospects of signing agreements with Vietnam, Indonesia, Tunisia and India.
Since 16 December 2020, Argentina has been holding the Presidency Pro Tempore (PPT) of MERCOSUR and it will continue to do so throughout the first half of 2021. During this period, we are responsible for holding and organizing the meetings of MERCOSUR's decision-making bodies, such as the Trade Commission (CCM), the Common Market Group (GMC) and the Common Market Council, as well as related technical forums. This six-month period will end with the Summit of Presidents of the MERCOSUR Member States.
2021 is a special year for MERCOSUR as it is its 30th anniversary. 26 March marks the anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Asuncion and, as a result, various activities and events will be held to celebrate this occasion, including enhancing the MERCOSUR Citizenship Statute, a distinctive instrument of the four countries under which our citizens receive benefits and privileges for being part of the unifying entity that is MERCOSUR.
Our Presidency Pro Tempore will pursue goals aimed at strengthening the integration agenda and will foster actions relating to sustainable and inclusive development. Technical work and negotiations will continue in relation to various items on MERCOSUR's current agenda: external negotiations with third countries, common external tariff, automotive sector, rules of origin, harmonization of front-of-package nutrition labelling, institutional strengthening, among others.
Participation by different government actors and by a wide variety of civil society representatives will be promoted. Meetings of the MERCOSUR Business Forum and the MERCOSUR Citizenship Forum will be convened with the aim of analyzing and discussing the bloc's future challenges.
Information on the various activities and events to be held during Argentina's 2021 Presidency Pro Tempore, as well as documents of general interest, will be provided through the official web site of the Argentine Ministry of Foreign Affairs, International Trade and Worship.