Former President Cardoso Says Brazil Lost Leadership in the Mercosur

Mercosur is agonizing and the situation could worsen if any of its members signs a free trade agreement with a third party, warned former Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso.

The former president was also critical of Brazil’s loss of leadership and the growing challenge at continental level represented by Venezuela’s leader Hugo Chavez.

"Brazil could and should have helped sponsor conciliation between Uruguay and Argentina in the pulp mills dispute," underlined Mr. Cardoso in a long interview with Montevideo’s daily EL Pais.

"Mercosur is in crisis. We never actually worked for a true integration by granting special powers to a supranational body or assembly which could take into consideration the different population and economic might of country members"

The former president admitted that following the exchange rate difficulties at the end of the nineties, which affected mainly Brazil and Argentina, plus the following recession, come country members "adopted a defensive attitude".

Brazil surprised Mercosur members by devaluating its currency January 1999 and Argentina defaulted December 2001.

Cardoso insisted that Brazil’s leadership in South America actually "diminished at the same rate some of our leaders started to proclaim it ostentatiously".

"Not only did we (Brazil) remain silent without taking any conciliatory initiative in the Uruguay-Argentina dispute, but we also allowed Venezuela to actively meddle in the irritating skirmishes Bolivia has had with its neighbors, by adopting a bashful attitude".

Cardoso said he didn’t believe there was ill faith in the current Brazilian administration foreign affairs policy to gain World predominant, but "several serious appreciation errors have been committed".

If the free trade agreements with third parties, (such as the US, China or other regions), promoted by the smaller country members of the group proliferate, "Mercosur agony will worsen".

Cardoso said much of the difficulties can be tracked to the tepid reaction to the US sponsored Free Trade of the Americas Association, FTAA.

"We rejected the global agreement and now we are faced with a surge of partial bilateral agreements which unbalance the whole regional integration that is a major failing of the current Brazilian administration," highlighted the former Brazilian president.

Mercopress – www.mercopress.com

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