Brazilians Fear Chavez Will Bring Trouble to Mercosur

Venezuela’s incorporation to Mercosur scheduled for this week’s presidential summit in Montevideo, Uruguay, is seen with limited enthusiasm by Brazilian business and experts who feel the customs union might become highly "political", creating additional difficulties to negotiations with other trade blocks.

"Mercosur is interested in Venezuela but we don’t want the block to become a political springboard for bravados against United States and the European Union", said Roberto Gianetti da Fonseca, head of the Foreign Relations and Trade Committee from the influential São Paulo Federation of Industries (FIESP).

Many Brazilian businessmen have "misgivings" that President Hugo Chavez might feel tempted to use Mercosur to "expand its influence" over South American countries.

Gianetti mentioned Mr. Chavez close links with Argentine president Nestor Kirchner and Bolivian presidential candidate Evo Morales. "There’s nothing wrong with Venezuela and its people, who are welcomed, we are concerned with certain attitudes from President Chavez".

The Brazilian expert also mentioned Chavez rejection of the US sponsored Free Trade Association of the Americas, FTAA, and said he expects Mr. Chavez not to take advantage of Mercosur for his political objectives, since "Mercosur must not be tainted with ideology". However, "Chaves is temporary and Venezuela is permanent".

Another Brazilian former diplomat and Mercosur expert, José Botafogo Gonçalves, president of the Brazilian International Relations center, CEBRI, also expressed concern about the political consequences of Venezuela as a Mercosur full member.

"There are several elements in Mr. Chavez positions, which collide with Mercosur policies", he insisted adding that Brazilian businessmen and European diplomats consider Venezuela’s incorporation to Mercosur/EU free trade and cooperation talks as not "too viable".

Botafogo Gonçalves anticipated that Venezuela’s Mercosur full membership process will be "delayed", and could "involve years". Besides Venezuela’s tariff universe includes 8.000 items of which "only 14 are in line with Mercosur’s common external tariff" and Venezuela is already a member of the Andean Community of Nations.

"These are complex negotiations that include customs, tariffs, legal frameworks because Mercosur is not only trade but has agreements involving health, education, environment, democracy, among others," concluded the Brazilian expert.

This article appeared originally in Mercopress – www.mercopress.com.

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