Mercosur plans to begin negotiations with associate members Bolivia and Ecuador to make them full members, said Brazilian Foreign Affairs minister Antonio Patriota during Wednesday’s presidential summit in Paraguay.
There is a feeling that it's time to increase outreach to potential candidates to become full members said Patriota. Two countries emerged in conversation -- Bolivia and Ecuador pointed out the Brazilian official.
Ecuadorean president Rafael Correa is currently in Asuncion to join the Mercosur summit when Paraguay hands over the rotating chair to Uruguay for the next 6 months.
Patriota said a task force of diplomats from the four member countries, Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay, will travel to the two countries to begin talks about full membership. Bolivia and Ecuador currently have associate status in the group.
Nevertheless Patriota said he still expects the Paraguayan congress to approve Venezuela's bid for full membership in the trade pact, something that has already been approved by the legislatures of the other three full members.
Paraguayan president Fernando Lugo does not have the sufficient votes in the Senate and several members of the upper house have stated they will not vote for “President Chavez’ Venezuela”, claiming he’s not democratic, muzzles the press and persecutes his political enemies.
Venezuela first applied for full membership in 2006. Argentina and Uruguay legislatives supported the initiative, but in Brazil the process was exasperating slow with many objections to President Chavez’ style of government. It was finally negotiated and passed in the last quarter of 2010.
The ministerial meeting previous to the presidential summit approved several initiatives including Paraguay’s demand of no obstacles to its foreign trade which is mostly shipped along the Parana River, crossing Argentine territory.
With the purpose of increasing macro-economic policy coordination the four members agreed to create several standing groups to follow fiscal, monetary, financial, balance of payments and macro-economic dialogue policies.
Another significant point was the approval of freedom of transit for cargo which originates or is destined to a Mercosur country member. This was Paraguay’s main demand following “fluvial pickets” organized by Argentine unions that for several months impeded normal traffic along the Paraná. There is a legal WTO record on the issue but Mercosur expanded it to cover land and fluvial transportation.
Finally a task force will advance in the drafting of projects to help overcome asymmetries in the trade block and to address strategic planning, medium and long term.