Mercosur junior members’ decision to negotiate free trade agreements with third parties received Friday the blessing of Brazil, current chair of the group, following a meeting of the Brazilian and Uruguayan presidents, Lula da Silva and Tabare Vazquez.
The visiting Uruguayan leader presented President Lula da Silva in Porto Alegre a package with several Mercosur review proposals, mainly regarding the common external tariff, as well as requesting backing for junior members to reach bilateral trade agreements with other parties.
President Vazquez said a copy of the proposals will be addressed to all other Mercosur members as of next Monday following President Lula’s acceptance and the fact that Brazil is also involved in bilateral trade talks with South Africa.
"We’re very pleased with President Lula’s consent for Uruguay and Paraguay to explore new paths and see how far they can reach, as long as these roads and proposal achievements do not injure the heart of the block; which means no conspiring or destruction of the regional integration process," President Vazquez told reporters after the hour long meeting with his Brazilian counterpart.
He added that there "are no objections to talks with China, India, South Africa, or United States. Actually next September 13, Brazil is holding trade talks with India and South Africa and Brazil will let them know Uruguay and Paraguay are also interested," added President Vazquez.
"The heart of Mercosur is based in the common foreign tariff, and this is the issue we talked about, a positive way to strengthen Mercosur," said Vazquez who revealed the leading points of the Uruguayan proposal.
Basically they are discussion of the common foreign tariff; eliminating double taxing; request Mercosur larger members to be more flexible and accept Uruguay can explore how far it can reach with bilateral agreements.
For Uruguay this means "exploring" the path for a free trade agreement negotiation with United States, to be officially launched early October and for which "we have all the support needed," said Vazquez.
The Uruguayan president praised his Brazilian counterpart since Brazil is giving evidence of "great flexibility mainly by admitting Mercosur as it’s now, it’s not working properly for the smaller countries and this must be improved and allow junior members to be involved in other undertakings without harming Mercosur."
Brazil’s support for Uruguay’s position was specially underlined by Uruguayan officials who pointed out that President Lula took time out of his hectic re-election campaign to meet with Vazquez for over an hour. President Lula’s delegation also included Foreign Affairs Minister Celso Amorim and his main foreign policy advisor Marco Aurélio Garcia.
Meantime in Montevideo Uruguayan Economy minister Danilo Astori announced that in mid October Uruguay will make a formal presentation of its negotiations before Mercosur’s Council that will then decide. Currently six bilateral US/Uruguay groups are working on different fields (from government procurement to intellectual property) and should have a formal report on time for mid October.
However while this was happening in Brazil and Montevideo, Gustavo Marques, Integration and Trade Minister from Venezuela the latest incorporation to Mercosur, who is visiting Uruguay warned that "a free trade agreement with United States is a form of colonial domination and must be rejected because it’s absolutely incompatible with the process of regional integration".