Mercosur’s 39th Summit has started in Argentina. The presidents of Argentina, Cristina Kirchner, Brazil, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, Paraguay, Fernando Lugo, and Uruguay, Jose Mujica, will meet on Tuesday, August 3, to sign a final document and hold a press conference.
Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela are associate members of Mercosur and will also be represented, as will a number of international organizations, including the Interamerican Development Bank, the Latin American Integration Association and the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean.
The Brazilian ambassador in Argentina, Enio Cordeiro, called Mercosur a success in bringing the members closer together. “There are some segments that remain outside free trade agreements, such as vehicles and sugar, there are still problems with sanitary controls and border customs. In short, there is not a common external tariff that is 100% effective. But that does not mean that Mercosur is a failure,” declared the ambassador.
Cordeiro went on to call the economic block a living example of the ideal of regional integration and a consolidated reality. “Mercosur has shown vitality and that it is a political necessity. It is an economic block with more than just commercial or economic goals, it is a political project of its members.”
Once the Mercosur summit is over, on Tuesday afternoon, Kirchner and Lula are to hold a meeting to analyze bilateral relations, informed Argentinean Foreign Affairs minister Hector Timerman.
The summit’s official agenda states that on Monday, Foreign Ministers listen to an Argentine report on “the regional integration process in its diverse aspects,” which was carried out during the six months that Buenos Aires was in charge of the pro-tempore presidency of the bloc, the Foreign Ministry said.
Among the progress made during the six months, Argentina highlights the “re-launch of negotiations with the European Union with the objective of reaching an Inter-regional Association Agreement.”
The negotiations between both blocs had been interrupted since 2004, although France opposes reducing its agricultural subsidies, one of the main Mercosur complaints for the eventual formation of a bi-regional association agreement.
Brazil will be taking the Mercosur rotating chair for the next six months.
Mexico and Chile have announced that they will reestablish diplomatic relations with Honduras, a decision which means they will vote for the return of the Central American nation to full membership in the Organization of American States.
Porfirio Lobo, elected in November 2009 while the country was being run by a de facto government that had deposed the elected president, Manuel Zelaya, is the current Honduran president.
In spite of the decision by Mexico and Chile, a number of Latin American nations, including Brazil, continue to refuse to recognize the Lobo administration arguing that it came to power after a break in the democratic order, restricts the political rights of Zelaya and has a questionable human rights record.
Last week, an OAS commission reported that there has been progress in Honduras although there are doubts about political stability, the independence of the judicial branch and guarantees for Zelaya.
It is expected that in the near future the OAS will vote on whether or not to reinstate Honduras.