By Peter Tase
On December 21, 2015, the Republic of Paraguay hosted the 49th Summit of the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR) with the participation of seven heads of state including: Mauricio Macri (Argentina), Evo Morales (Bolivia), Dilma Rousseff (Brazil), Michelle Bachelet (Chile), Horacio Cartes (Paraguay – MERCOSUR outgoing President Pro-Tempore), Tabaré Vázquez (Uruguay), Moses Nagamootoo (Prime Minister of Guyana) and Delcy Eloína Gómez Rodríguez (Foreign Minister of Venezuela).
In her statement, Chilean President Bachelet underlined that MERCOSUR member countries have ‘common goals that [they] can achieve by embracing active team work and determination.” President Bachelet emphasized that: “very soon we will celebrate the 20th anniversary of the signing of economic integration agreements between MERCOSUR and Chile. In 1996 Chile became the first Associate Member Nation of MERCOSUR. Since then many things have changed, including our position in relation to this commercial alliance, which has always been guided by political dialogue and the strengthening of consensus based on relevance of integration processes.”
In this context, the Chilean head of state noted the role of “Political Dialogue of MERCOSUR” that has made a positive impact in the regional development of public policies, defense of democracies, human rights, social development, migration and appreciation of indigenous cultures. In the same vein, President Bachelet reiterated: “the Economic and Commercial MERCOSUR has brought an impressive impact in South America, and certainly in Chile, 48 percent of the Chilean Foreign Direct Investment, more than US$ 40 billion, is allocated within the MERCOSUR Countries.”
In her statement delivered in Asuncion, the Chilean head of state noted that MERCOSUR is Chile’s fourth commercial partner; it represents an important destination for Santiago’s manufacturing industry, machinery and chemicals as well as value added services. In 2014 Chile exported more than US$ 7 Billion to MERCOSUR Member Countries; this trade block has become Chile’s fourth largest destination of its exported goods in the world; meanwhile, in the same period, services provided by Santiago to the region reached over US$ 1.8 Billion.
President Bachelet highlighted that: “in all these sectors, MERCOSUR has many accomplishments to share, but it has also many awaiting matters, in which we have to continue with a greater commitment. [Chile] has fostered, immediately after our government came to power in March, the dialogue between the Pacific Alliance and MERCOSUR, and will continue to pursue this path, with further determination and energy. We have clearly stated that the Pacific Alliance is not considered a movement that turns its back to the Atlantic coast, indeed we believe that we must explore all possibilities and necessary synergies in order to work together.”
In South America there is applied a variety of socio-economic models in order to ensure a better economic development; political, economic and institutional differences have always been present in this region. However, countries like Chile and Colombia have many positive experiences in the sectors of economic development, poverty alleviation, and development of logistical parks and visionary educational policies that ought to be taken into account by other neighboring developing nations.
It is necessary and indispensable to have a vibrant communication between MERCOSUR and the Pacific Alliance, two regional trade alliances that could bring further progress towards the economic development of countries including: an integrated office for new businesses’ establishment, elimination of commercial barriers and customs cooperation, electronic certification of products, scholarship for students, and citizens’ mobility. After all, the current global order demands a greater regional integration and such efforts must not go in vain; South America cannot afford to stay behind.
In the first six months of 2016, Uruguay’s Tabaré Vazquez will be the President Pro-Tempore of MERCOSUR who is also the current President Pro-Tempore of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR). MERCOSUR’s ongoing priorities to be addressed under Vazquez’s leadership are: 1) improvement of intra-regional trade; 2) update of regulations on the external negotiations process 3) strengthening the agenda of cooperation in external relations, beyond the Southern Common Market, particularly foster a close cooperation with the Pacific Alliance and European Union.
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Additionally, Uruguay is expected to lead an initiative so that MERCOSUR’s (Ouro Preto Protocol; Decision CMC Nr. 10/92 and Resolution Nr. 35/92) would allow its member countries the right to conduct bilateral treaty negotiations with any other country outside of the regional block, without being obliged to go through MERCOSUR’s review and approval process on every attempt for bilateral trade agreement.