José Serra, Brazil’s leading presidential candidate described Mercosur as a “farce” and a “barrier” for Brazil to sign trade agreements with other countries. “To keep carrying the burden of this Mercosur in its current condition is senseless. The customs’ union is a farce, except when it is used to impede, to block”, said Serra during a meeting with leading businessmen from the state of Minas Gerais.
Press reports from Belo Horizonte indicate that the opposition candidate and former governor of Brazil’s powerhouses, the state of São Paulo, said that the group made up of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay “has become a barrier for Brazil to sign trade agreements with other countries”.
Serra has been a regular critic of Mercosur and its “cumbersome procedures”.
Presidential candidate for the main opposition party, Brazilian Social Democracy, PSDB, Serra last April 10 talking at his official nomination, complained bitterly that Mercosur after almost two decades only has one free trade agreement, with Israel.
In his nomination speech Serra promised a complete reformulation of Brazil’s foreign trade policies. “We have reserves but investors look at the stock and the influx of foreign capital. We must be ready to anticipate events”, insisted Serra.
However the candidate leading in the opinion polls for the presidential election of next October 3 did not anticipate what would be his administration’s position towards Mercosur, of which Brazil is the main economy and one of the founding members in 1991.
According to a report in the financial newspaper Valor, the former governor recalled an experience of the past to support his criticism of Mercosur.
While minister of Health in the cabinet of former president Fernando Henrique Cardoso (1995-2002), Brazil and India were ready to sign a trade agreement but the initiative was frustrated because compensations had to be established for the other three full members of the block, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay.
Serra is competing with Dilma Rousseff the incumbent candidate handpicked by President Lula da Silva. His former cabinet chief and energy minister, Ms Rousseff however has a past linked to the radicals of the sixties and seventies and is looked upon with certain suspicion by the business establishment.
She has on her side the unbeatable prestige and reputation of president Lula, but it’s not sure if it will be enough.