Institutionalization of Mercosur and changing its public opinion image are the main issues Brazil’s Samuel Pinheiro Guimaraes plans to address, at his new post of Mercosur High Representative-General since February.
Guimaraes is no newcomer to diplomacy (during Lula da Silva’s presidencies he was deputy foreign minister at Itamaraty and on retirement, took over the Strategic Affairs Ministry).
Interviewed by the Buenos Aires Herald Guimaraes defines his post “as just one more step on the road to institutionalization: just as the Mercosur Parliament was created or Ouro Preto (the 1994 treaty supposedly creating a customs union) or the FOCEM structural convergence fund created in 2006 to smooth out the imbalances, so now in 2011 with the 20th anniversary of the Treaty of Asunción, we are going to re-launch the process.”
Guimaraes argues that back in 1991 all four Mercosur countries believed in a minimal state to lower tariffs and taxes “but now we know that while there must be tolerance, trade must not be allowed to go off the rails”.
However he admits that Mercosur currently is caught up in a war over Argentina’s non-automatic licensing involving Argentina’s Domestic Trade Secretary Guillermo Moreno and Brazil‘s Dilma Rousseff’s presidency and the powerful FIESP (Federation of Sao Paulo Industries) lobby.
But “what matters is not following the rules but economic growth, and we are now in a favourable period of economic expansion in the region”.
He adds “we need to invest in infrastructure which means a permanent presence in a country and to take care of the unfinished business to ensure the free circulation of people and to complete the accession of new Mercosur members”.
“All the countries who want to should join” underlines Guimaraes in obvious reference to Venezuela and the Paraguayan congress negative to support the initiative arguing that Venezuela is not “a full democracy”.
“My vision of Mercosur is not technical but political” underlines Mercosur High Representative. “We must reflect on the aims of Mercosur, review its achievements, identify pending issues and, above all, change the image of Mercosur as one problem after another,” he says.