At least ten chiefs of state are scheduled to participate in the Mercosur summit now confirmed for next July 23-24, an event to be hosted by Paraguay. During the summit Paraguay will hand the Mercosur rotating chair to Uruguay for the next six months.
"Presidents from Mercosur full members, Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and associate members, Chile and Bolivia have confirmed their participation," said on Friday Paraguyan Foreign Affairs minister Hector Lacognata.
Venezuela's president Hugo Chavez has also been announced in Asunción. Chavez requested incorporation as a full member in 2006, and was quickly approved by the congresses of Argentina and Uruguay. However the Venezuelan request is still pending approval from the Brazilian and Paraguayan legislative branches.
Paraguay and Uruguay are expected to make strong presentations during the summit given the growing difficulties to access the Argentine and Brazilian markets.
In anticipation of the summit the Paraguayan government held a round of meetings where the different sectors of the economy discussed Mercosur, achievements and shortcomings. Mercosur was formally launched in March 1991, precisely in Asuncion.
"Since the creation of Mercosur, Paraguay has seen 1.500 industries go down or disappear", said businessman Esteban Morabito, from the Paraguayan Announcers' Chamber, CAP.
"We would like to create more jobs, more employment opportunities but we don't have the markets. It's easier to export to United States or Europe than to Foz de Iguaçu (Brazil) or Corrientes (Argentina)", said Morabito bitterly complaining about the different hurdles imposed by senior Mercosur members on junior members Paraguay and Uruguay.
"Not only did we lose 1.500 manufacturing related businesses, another 5.000 were never able to see the light of the day. That is why we have so many Paraguayans working overseas, Spain, United States, Argentina…" he added.
Morabito admitted that these claims have been reiterated to the different Paraguayan administrations but with not much consequence.
"We would like our government to formally protest to Mercosur about all the non tariff hurdles which impede regional trade", underlined Morabito.