Uruguayan president Jose Mujica said that Mercosur should give its members more space to negotiate with third parties and supported linking to the Alliance of the Pacific, which nevertheless he argued is “part of a geopolitical involving China” and not accepted by Brazil.
“Mercosur is a project that tries to include the most it can of Latinamerica”, said Mujica but also pointing out that “there are some rules that must be modified”.-
“I think that the consensus rule is not positive for us. If we are going to grow, if we want to expand, we must be flexible. To the extent that if a country does not wish to associate with another, we can’t force them to do so”, said the Uruguayan president.
Mercosur is currently made up of five full members, Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, Venezuela and suspended Paraguay, plus Bolivia in the process of incorporation and Ecuador about to begin the process.
Mujica insisted the need for the block to have more freedom to negotiate with others, particularly when we have asymmetric relations” such is the case of small economies like Uruguay and Paraguay. However ‘simply signing agreements’ world trade problems will be solved.
“We (Uruguay) have a trade agreement with Mexico, but nothing great has happened”, he said.
Mujica explained that this year Uruguay requested and was admitted as observer of the Pacific Alliance (Chile, Peru, Colombia and Mexico, plus Costa Rica and Panama in process of incorporation), which is targeting a free trade regional area with the purpose of projecting to Asia.
This move has been questioned by the ALBA countries, (Bolivarian alliance for the Americas), led by Venezuela and Ecuador, and by the Sao Paulo Forum a regional left wing organization.
Brazilian former president Lula da Silva said that the Pacific Alliance, “hides the geopolitical interest of weakening Mercosur, Unasur (Union of South American Nations) and Celac (Community of Latinamerican and Caribbean states)” regional groups.
The rotating chair of Mercosur is now in the hands of Venezuela; Unasur is held by Peru and that of Celac by Cuba. But Mujica said he has a different technical view to that of Lula da Silva.
“I know Brazil is very significant and I’m not going to change the world with statements. Uruguay is not relevant but Brazil really has weight, and if Brazil moves to one side or the other it pulls as along, and China somehow is a rival” said Mujica.
“I think all this is part of a geopolitical move to try and isolate China, so what we are seeing is a battle of colossus”.
Mujica said “we can’t isolate China. Culture and history links us to Europe but business points clearly to China. Mercosur is the last great agriculture reservoir for humanity, which also makes Asia look to the South American region”.
“We can think and organize all the Atlantic communities we sigh, but on this side we have 40 countries, 40 parliaments, 40 governments that have to discuss every detail among them. And on the other side you have Central Committee which as the most is discussed by nine people and obeyed by a 1.3 billion population”, insisted Mujica.
Finally Mujica said he trusted that suspended Paraguay returns to Mercosur, which has been suspended since June 2012, following the removal in June 2012 of then president Fernando Lugo. Actually Lugo was removed for incompetence following political impeachment by the Senate with an overwhelming vote.
“The presence of Paraguay we think is essential, particularly for us. We are betting on an infrastructure development processes in Mercosur which must include Paraguay”, he emphasized.
Mercosur lifts the suspension on Paraguay as of next 15 August when president-elect Horacio Cartes takes office. However Cartes has anticipated there is an interest in returning but before there must be “respect for Paraguay’s dignity, rule of the law, international law and Mercosur institutions”.
This is because Paraguay insists the removal of Lugo was done according to the constitution, and as such accepted by the former bishop, plus the fact that taking advantage of the suspension, Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay voted the incorporation as full member of Venezuela, pending since 2006, because of Paraguay’s objection of then president Hugo Chavez, whom they considered an autocrat. All Mercosur decisions are based on consensus and with the attendance of all members.
“I know there is irritation. I think governments have the best of willingness, but what we have to look out for is that sometimes lobbies, corporative interests want to influence decisions or become a nuisance”.
“What I really care for is the Paraguayan people, not only because they are brothers but in Uruguay we have very deep and close historic ties”, said Mujica.