Venezuela may join Mercosur in 2011

Venezuela may join Mercosur in 2011

Argentinean President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner has urged all the member states and associate members of Mercosur, particularly Paraguay, to allow Venezuela to join the South American trade bloc, Press TV reported.

Fernandez made the remarks on Friday at the final session of the 40th Summit of Heads of State of Mercosur in Foz de Iguazu, Brazil.

She praised Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's government and called for its admission into the trade bloc, the Buenos Aires Herald reported.

If Venezuela is allowed to join Mercosur, it will "not only contribute with its generosity, but also help us position ourselves strategically as one of the most important fronts of the century."

"We must prioritize a strategic alliance between all countries in the region," she said, adding that accepting Venezuela as a member country would be "an important step towards closing an energetic equation in South America."

"I would like to call once again for the approval of Venezuela's request to join the Mercosur, and I'm certain this will come to pass during Paraguay's pro-tempore presidency of the organization," she said.

The Argentinean president also called on countries in the region to reject the old adage of "divide and conquer" and replace it with "join and govern," noting that the domestic markets of Mercosur countries "have allowed us to face and overcome the largest global crisis since the 1930s."

Brazilian Minister of Foreign Affairs Celso Amorim said that he expects the Paraguayan Parliament will ratify Venezuela's accession into the organization at the beginning of 2011.

"According to reports we have seen, I can tell you that we hope that Venezuela's accession will be ratified early next year," he added.

Although the governments of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay approved Venezuela's admission into the bloc in 2006, its status remained in limbo as the agreement depends on ratification by the Paraguayan Congress.

The founding four also agreed to draft common investment guarantees, anti-trust laws, and a single policy on the automotive industry. Ministers from the participating countries also reached an agreement to eliminate barriers to service industries and tariff exemptions on goods.

Mercosur is an economic and political agreement between Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay founded in 1991. Its purpose is to promote free trade and the fluid movement of goods, people, and currency.

The bloc's combined market encompasses more than 250 million people and accounts for more than three-quarters of the economic activity on the continent, or a combined GDP of $1.1 trillion.

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