Venezuela’s bid to join Mercosur

by Craig Janis

For those who might be unaware, Mercosur is a regional trade agreement between Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, and Paraguay. It is somewhat comparable to NAFTA, though there are some significant differences. Recently, Venezuela has been actively trying to join Mercosur, but before it can, all four member countries have to give their approval. So far the all have given their approval except Paraguay, though there has been some controversy in other countries over admitting Venezuela while Chavez is still in charge. In Paraguay, criticism of Chavez’s action against opposition parties has delayed the approval process.

Now, the leading candidate for the Brazilian Presidency, José Serra, has expressed some of his own concerns over Venezuela’s entry. From MercoPress:

“I want to say something, I think it’s great, very good for me that (Hugo) Chávez should support Ms. (Dilma) Rousseff [Serra's opponent in the presidential elections],” said José Serra talking to Brazilian reporters in Rio Grande do Sul, but warned that this is not positive for Mercosur “because his incorporation would only weaken and discredit Mercosur.”

Serra said that “as we all know, this gentleman likes to persecute and shut down all media that does not support him. Let us not forget also that Mr. Chavez could have won many elections but his debut in politics was as leader of a bloody military coup,” underlined Serra. “Only later was he elected”.

The opposition candidate that leads in public opinion polls went further and said that “not reforming or reviewing Mercosur endangers its very existence. To admit a new full member in Mercosur for political reasons is simply not believable and not acceptable”.

Serra also insisted that the voting system inside Mercosur had to be reviewed. “In the European Union, with a long experience of integration, the country with the largest GDP and most population has a greater participation in the voting scheme; on the contrary in Mercosur all members have the same vote.” This limits Brazil’s international trade policies and “must be reviewed.” Imagine “if Venezuela finally makes it into Mercosur—which is madness—it would have the same vote as Brazil; it’s quite senseless,” said Serra.

The former governor of São Paulo said that Mercosur should aim to become a free trade zone, (instead of a common market) but gave to timetable to achieve such a goal.