South America’s economic block Mercosur concluded Tuesday in Argentina one of its most successful summits after having reached agreements on issues that consolidate integration while avoiding being drawn into a frustrating debate on a renewed chapter of the ongoing Venezuela/Colombia conflict.
Following six years of negotiations Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay, Mercosur full members reached an agreement on crucial points of the Common Customs Code, besides signing a trade agreement with Egypt.
The distribution of customs revenue as well as the double charge of the common external tariff, AEC, was finally agreed helping to further integrate the block and facilitating negotiations with third parties.
The Mercosur summit also decided on commercial benefits for quake ravaged Haiti and agreed on the fundamentals for the protection of the Guarani aquifer, considered one of the world’s largest drinking water reservoirs and which extends under the four countries of the group.
“It was an extraordinary, fantastic result that has left us all most satisfied,” said Argentine president and host of the summit Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner and her successor in the Mercosur pro tempore chair Brazil’s Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.
The Brazilian leader who underlined he’s the most “senior” member of these summits insisted that the San Juan summit was the “most important” since December 1994, when the meeting at Ouro Preto, Brazil set the foundations for the customs union.
Discussions at the San Juan summit, which also involved Bolivia’s Evo Morales and Chile’s Sebastian Piñera have been “the most easy going and cool”, said Lula recalling all types of disputes in previous meetings.
Paraguay’s Fernando Lugo was the only president who mentioned the Colombia-Venezuela conflict saying that a solution was “only a matter of time”.
The absence of President Hugo Chavez from Venezuela helped to avoid references and debates on the issue.
Nevertheless Mercosur full and associate members approved a statement calling on UNASUR (Union of South American Nations) to convene in the near future an extraordinary meeting of presidents to address the situation.
UNASUR secretary general Nestor Kirchner, also present at the summit, avoided comments on the conflict but anticipated that things would begin to improve once president-elect Juan Manuel Santos takes office next August 7.
The former Argentine president is scheduled to meet with Santos in Bogota and Chavez in Caracas.
It was evident that Mercosur members wanted at all cost to prevent the Colombian-Venezuela conflict from spoiling what worked out as one of the most effective summits in years, following the agreement on the Customs Code and the common external tariff.
Landlocked Paraguay was reluctant in trusting that the Customs offices of its associate Mercosur members would effectively mail the check of its share of levies.
But agreeing on the issue opened the way for ending the double or triple charge of the external tariff for any goods entering Mercosur, before it reaches the final recipient country.
The advance on these issues effectively makes Mercosur a customs union facilitating negotiations with third parties.