Paraguay is committed to return Mercosur to 'its roots', reach an agreement on some of the original fundamentals, eliminate restrictions to inter-trade and strongly promote the trade accord with the European Union. This is scheduled to take place in the coming six months once Paraguay is handed Mercosur' chair at the group's midyear presidential summit that begins on Thursday in Brasilia.
It will be the first time Paraguay holds the Mercosur pro-tempore presidency since it was suspended from the group and its founding member rights by Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay, during the 2012 political crisis that led to the constitutional removal of then president Fernando Lugo, but which was interpreted by its partners as a 'rupture' of the democratic clause.
Before leaving for Brazil president Horacio Cartes met with clue ministers for the coming summit: foreign minister Eladio Loizaga; Finance minister Santaigo Peña, Industry minister Gustavo Leite and Carlos Fernandez central bank governor.
The idea of the meeting was to elaborate on how to return Mercosur to its roots, that is its trade and commercial profile and less politics, and give a big boost to inter-group trade, putting an end to regional restrictions said minister Loizaga.
This he added should be accomplished in the next six months when Paraguay holds the Mercosur chair, so that we can strengthen true integration.
One of the strategies is to establish an understanding with Uruguay that will succeed Paraguay in the first half of 2016 as Mercosur chair, so as to ensure that eliminating restrictions on trade inside the group is continued.
Another issue according to Loizaga, is to increase 'trade development' with the purpose of creating jobs to benefit Mercosur members and any other country that wishes to become a member, geared at infrastructure investments.
Bolivia's Mercosur full membership will also be addressed with an approved incorporation protocol, which this time will include Paraguay's consent, something that did not happen back in 2012 when the country was suspended from the group.
Regarding discussions with the European Union for an encompassing trade agreement, Paraguay will have the strong support from Brussels, as anticipated by the head of the EU Americas Desk, Christian Leffler.
We trust Paraguay can lead Mercosur in a dynamic way, which will enable us to advance in the trade agreement. We have close relations with president Cartes and his administration and we congratulate Paraguay on its full return to Mercosur and the fact it will hold the group's chair for the rest of the year, said Leffler.
Last June in Brussels, Mercosur and the EU agreed to exchange tariff reduction proposals by the end of the year. Paraguay will play a leading role and we trust that president Cartes and his team will support the negotiations.
During the suspension of Paraguay from Mercosur and Unasur (which joined later), the European Union strongly supported the care-taker government, both politically and financially.
Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay are determined to reach an agreement with the EU despite Argentina's reluctance, and have considered several options to overcome such attitude, for example, a greater 'flexibilization' of Mercosur, eliminating the consensus clause which forces all members to agree on negotiations with third parties or a two-speed approach, leaving Argentina to join later.