Monday, December 11th 2006 - 20:00 UTC

Bolivia and Ecuador targeting Mercosur

Bolivia is seriously considering becoming a full member of Mercosur and Ecuador's elected president said he favors building an only block with Mercosur and the Andean Community of Nations.

Bolivia is currently an associate member and president Evo Morales over the weekend informed Argentine vice president Daniel Scioli that he would like to see the country become a full member during the coming year.

President Morales admitted that he had some doubts about Mercosur mainly because Bolivia belonged to the Andean Community of Nations (CAN) customs union together with Colombia, Peru and Ecuador, and Venezuela which abandoned the organization last year. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez left CAN arguing that the other members were about to sign free trade agreements with United States.

Meanwhile in Ecuador elected president Rafael Correa anticipated his administration would lobby strongly for the two groups, CAN and Mercosur, to become an only block, although he cautioned that the first step is strengthening the Andean community.

"We must unify the integration processes of the region which are mainly CAN and Mercosur. The political will of my future government is to strengthen CAN and the Andean integration process" said Correa in an interview with the country's leading daily El Comercio from Quito.

But since Ecuador is also an associate member of Mercosur "we must take advantage of that position and advance towards a continental integration", added Correa who is planning an aggressive foreign trade expansion.

During November's presidential run off Correa criticized CAN describing it as an "agonizing" block mainly because Colombia and Peru "had signed bilateral trade agreements with United States".

"If we are really a community we must negotiate as a group. I'm not criticizing Colombia and Peru, they are sovereign, but let's not blame elected president Correa or Venezuela that left the group, for the dismembering of CAN", he emphasized.

Actually CAN is trying to recover its past stability with the incorporation of Chile as an associate member since last September. Chile actually abandoned CAN in 1979 over disagreements regarding investment and trade policies.

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