Brazilian Businessmen Can’t Decide If They Want Chavez in the Mercosur

Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez In Brazil, the National Congress controversy over the incorporation of Venezuela to the Mercosur has moved to the business sector. A group of Brazilian businessmen have begun lobbying strongly for Venezuela's full membership but the process has been stalled by Brazilian and Paraguayan lawmakers.

The legislative branches of Argentina and Uruguay have already approved the initiative.

The incorporation of Venezuela to Mercosur will render Brazil a "strategic market not only because of its potential demand, but also because of its geo-economic and logistic condition," said on Sunday Francisco Marcondes, president of the Venezuela-Brazil Chamber of Commerce Federation.

The natural complementation between both countries will mean "great benefits for Brazil and for its entrepreneurs," added Marcondes, contradicting the Brazilian Confederation of Industries which argues that the weight of Venezuela in Brazil's foreign trade balance is "minimal" and there is also "an evident lack of legal certainty" for the Brazilian exporter working with the oil rich country.

"We must publicly sustain that the CNI position does not correspond with facts or the interests of the great majority of Brazilian manufacturers," added Marcondes in an official communiqué from the Chambers of Commerce Federation.

Delaying access of Venezuela to Mercosur means "disregarding advantages to increase markets in the continent for Brazilian exporters and allow the strategic penetration to an important regional market of a competitor such as China …particularly in the midst of an unprecedented global financial crisis."

Finally the communiqué calls to leave aside "political or ideological considerations related to governments limited in time, inevitably temporary, and concentrate in relations between peoples and countries, which are permanent."

In the Brazilian Congress there are a significant number of members who refuse to accept Venezuela into Mercosur, alleging the limited compliance with "the democratic clause" the trade block demands from its members.

Some like Senate president José Sarney and former president of Brazil go further and say they can't understand the concept of "democratic revolution" implemented by President Hugo Chavez.

The administration of President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva that supports the initiative has repeatedly argued that President Chavez has been legitimized in several elections and referendums.

Congress Vote

Venezuela agreed to comply with Mercosur intra-trade conditions so that its stalled incorporation request can be finally approved by the Brazilian Congress. Hopefully the issue will be finalized for when President Hugo Chavez makes a state visit to Brazil next May 26, according to Brazilian Foreign minister Celso Amorim quoted by the São Paulo press.

Amorim spent three hours with President Hugo Chavez in Caracas and Venezuela's Mercosur membership was top of the agenda, reports Folha de S. Paulo.

"I suggested the technical teams meet to address and solve the issues because I am well aware that trade negotiations take a lot of time. This time it can't be so, we need to act fast and President Chavez was totally in agreement," said Amorim.

The Brazilian government proposal was for Venezuela to completely adapt to all intra-Mercosur trade policies so lawmakers who oppose Venezuela's admission won't have a motive to vote against.

"The purpose is for the trade issue to be solved before the state visit of President Chavez to Brazil next May 26."

The heart of the matter is a tariff exemption program for 500 goods so that the basic free trade conditions of the block can be achieved in accordance with Venezuela's Mercosur Adhesion Protocol signed in 2006.

Amorim is scheduled to defend before the Brazilian Senate Foreign Affairs Committee the incorporation of Venezuela to Mercosur, and to argue that some sectors of the Venezuelan economy are not convinced of joining the group because they fear an invasion of Brazilian goods.

Argentina and Uruguay's lawmakers have already approved Venezuela's Mercosur incorporation, but Brazil and Paraguay are still pending.

In spite of President Lula's administration insistence in Venezuela's membership some Brazilian senators are also fearful of the "ideological" content that Chavez could bring to Mercosur plus the fact they "don't understand" the concept of democracy applied by the Bolivarian revolution.



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