President Evo Morales will officially formalize this week the request for Bolivia to become a full member of Mercosur, announced Monday in Brasilia Bolivian Foreign Affairs minister David Choquehuanca.
However Bolivia expects to be accepted in Mercosur without having to cut links with the Community of Andean Nations, CAN, to which it belongs and currently holds the rotating chair. "We would like to have the chance of joining Mercosur without loosing the benefits we enjoy in CAN in true integration spirit", said Choquhuanca. "Next January 18, CAN is scheduled to meet when Bolivia's request to join Mercosur will be considered. In the meantime Mercosur will be naming a task group to address Bolivia's aspiration", added Choquehuanca. The formal request will become official in a letter to be addressed to the five presidents of the group's full members, Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and Venezuela. Bolivia is currently an associate member of Mercosur which means it must not abide by the common external tariff. President Morales made the informal sounding with his South American counterparts during a recent summit in Cochabamba. Brazilian Foreign Affaire minister Celos Amorim said he believed CAN would put no obstacles to Bolivia's request to become a Mercosur full member, mainly because both blocks have already signed a free trade agreement. Furthermore "in practical terms, CAN ceased to be a customs union when two of its members (Colombia and Peru; Ecuador is on hold) signed free trade agreements with United States". Earlier in the year Venezuela split from CAN complaining that Colombia and Peru had "betrayed" the group by signing trade accords with the US. Ecuador's elected president Rafael Correa has also anticipated that any agreement with the US "will remain on hold".