Still Rhetorically, South American Leaders Re-launch Mercosur
Regional leaders, Venezuela's Chavez among them, made a new pledge to expand the bloc that already joins Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay
As usual, more rhetoric than facts surrounded last week’s Mercosur summit that took place in Paraguay's Capital City, Asuncion. Heads of state from Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay an Uruguay, plus the presidents of Mercosur associated nations, Chile and Bolivia, discussed the possibilities of a full South American integration to counter US proposed Free Trade of the Americas (FTAA). Venezuela's President, Hugo Chavez also attended the talks as a special guest, although he had already expressed his interest to join the bloc.
Despite the expressed good intentions, the 24 point's final declaration did not include any of the objectives proposed by Brazil's Lula Da Silva and Argentina's Nestor Kirchner toward the creation of a joined parliament and a common currency. The formal discussion concerning the political integration of South America to reach to common positions into the global institutions was not address directly.
However, the document states clearly the intention to delay the FTAA integration process pushed by Washington. South Americans are very reluctant to comply with the 2005 deadline, a top US policy priority for the region. Besides, Mercosur leaders also agreed to intensify efforts to merge with the Andean Community - which comprises Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Venezuela. Mercosur's merger with the Andean Community will be a hard boat to row, as countries like Colombia, Peru and recently Ecuador have developed close ties to Washington.
The 24th Mercosur summit had been anticipated by the meetings that Kirchner and Lula held in Brasilia recently. There, the leaders of Mercosur's core discussed the possibility of the inclusion of three more countries to the bloc, and even named Peru and Venezuela as among the first. However, there were no negotiations in this sense during the Asuncion summit.
Despite the launching of the "social Mercosur", based on the idea that endemic governance problems are closely linked to poverty amid the region, there were no other actual proposals. Moreover, according to sources quoted by Argentine newspapers, the delegation headed by Nestor Kirchner left Asuncion disappointed.
"I will believe in Mercosur, when it will start going forward", complained Argentina's Kirchner. "We need clear definitions toward integration", he remarked as a way to turn a "good will meeting" into a real integration process.
The heads of the four main countries that make up Mercosur trading bloc have agreed to expand economic and political ties in an effort to create a common market by 2006. However, grandiloquent speeches won't make of integration plans a plausible reality. The last summit made clear that Maastricht is far away from Asuncion.