Following his encounter with the Uruguayan Foreign Minister, Reinaldo Gargano, the Brazilian Minister of Foreign Relations, Celso Amorim, said that the Mercosur "is not about to fall apart," as many people are claiming.
To the contrary, he pointed out, "I see the Mercosur growing and our export bases breaking one record after another."
He acknowledged, however, that the Mercosur has been less beneficial to the smaller economies, such as Paraguay’s, than it could have been. And he asserted that the bloc will only attain its real goals – such as "encouraging true integration" – when the member countries stop placing exclusive priority on the tariff issue.
"The tariff issue is very important, since it is what allows us to negotiate with other countries, but we must also find ways to stimulate a genuine integration of productive chains, in terms of both supply and demand," he said.
In a press conference the Uruguayan chancellor also emphasized the Mercosur’s importance for deepening and developing commercial, social, and political relations among the countries of South America.
Regarding a possible bilateral negotiation between Uruguay and the United States, Gargano commented that it would not be "appropriate" for his country.
The rules governing an economic bloc, in this case, the Mercosur, to which Uruguay belongs, determine that trade negotiations must involve all the member countries instead of being conducted separately.
On this matter Amorim affirmed that bilateral agreements offer only immediate advantages, not long-term ones, as the Mercosur does. "The Mercosur must maintain its unity, because that is the source of its negotiating strength with the large economies. In the short run it is frequently tempting to engage in a small-scale negotiation that offers more advantages. But we know that in the long run integration is much better," he argued.
At their meeting Thursday, February 2, the chancellors also discussed the dispute between Uruguay and Argentina provoked by two cellulose factories the Uruguayan government wants to build on the banks of the Uruguay River, which forms the border between the two countries.
Argentina alleges that the two factories will pollute the river. Uruguay, for its part, insists that the project meets international standards and will bring jobs and investments to the entire region.
Amorim recalled that this matter has caused concern in Brazil, since both Argentina and Uruguay are members of the Mercosur. He said that Brazil is willing to help, and he hopes the impasse will be resolved through negotiations, "in order to find a solution that is adequate from the standpoint of both countries."
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