- The Bolivian government is eager to become the next full member state of MERCOSUR, after accepting South America’s largest trade bloc’s official invitation last year. Along with Chile, Bolivia is an associate member. The Morales government favors membership, further expanding regional integration while giving Bolivia the potential to grow by facilitating trade relations.However, some such as Gary Rodríguez, general manager of the Bolivian Institute of Foreign Trade (IBCE), fear that Bolivia’s entry would further hurt the national economy, particularly due to its current major trade deficit. The deficit reflects the country’s pre-existing relationship with MERCOSUR, which includes high consumption levels and low sales levels to the bloc. Some fear this issue may be exacerbated with full membership. There is also particular concern from the private sector, which fears that domestic manufacturing and private companies will not be able to survive in the case of devaluation of the Argentine peso and Brazilian real against the dollar.For Bolivia, joining MERCOSUR would mean that it would have to withdraw its membership from the Andean Community of Nations (CAN), following the path that Venezuela took last year. However, Morales pledges to maintain Bolivia’s trade agreements with CAN while complying with new commitments to MERCOSUR. Despite the government’s eagerness, Bolivia’s official membership is likely to remain a lengthy process. This was the case for Venezuela, which went through the same process in 2006 and only received full membership last year. Analysts note that Bolivia will first have to overcome a number of complex difficulties, such as the major issue of adapting to MERCOSUR’s legislation.
- The South Atlantic Peace and Cooperation Zone (ZOPACAS) gathered in Montevideo, Uruguay to express their concern over what Brazilian Foreign minister Antonio Patriora calls the “inappropriate militarization” of the Falkland Islands by the UK. ZOPACS is a group of three South American nations (Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay), and twenty-one African member states, which aims to promote cooperation and the maintenance of peace and security in the South Atlantic region. In a signed declaration after the meeting, ZOPACS underlined its “commitment with the consolidation of the South Atlantic as a zone of peace and cooperation free of nuclear and other arms of massive destruction”. The declaration claims there are remaining decolonization issues that must be solved. It stresses its opposition to the UK’s claim for increased militarization of the Falklands, and calls for the resumption of negotiations between Argentina and the UK on the Falkland/Malvinas issue. In the closing lines of the meeting, Uruguayan Foreign minister Luis Almagro highlighted the desire for peace and regional integration between South America and Africa: “ZOPACAS is above all a peace project and a contribution to preserve the region from armamentism threats and militaristic temptations, opening instead wide paths for cooperation between our two continents”.
- The European Parliament expresses its hopes to speed up EU and MERCOSUR trading negotiations, which have been largely stalled since talks resumed two years ago. Members of the European Parliament said that to achieve success with the negotiations, both sides need to show motivation and support, and address discussions with “an open mind and mutual trust”. The EU is concerned with some of the recent protectionist measures in trade and investment adopted by some MERCOSUR members in recent months. Furthermore, the European Parliament voiced the importance of issues of democracy, human rights, fundamental rights and rule of the law, as well as regulations on social and environment issues.The next EU/ MERCOSUR summit is to be held at the end of the month, in Santiago de Chile. In that respect, Chilean President Sebastián Piñera recently voiced the importance of having Latin America and the Caribbean attend this year’s summit as a single voice, unlike in prior dialogues. He stated that he hoped for a “new era” in European and Latin American relations, based less on aid and welfare, and more on cooperation, development, and more open and integrated markets. He stressed the importance of taking advantage of the region’s full potential, and of making the twenty-first century that of Latin America and the Caribbean.