October 16, 2005

Venezuela to become full member of Mercosur-Chavez

SALAMANCA, Spain (Reuters) - Venezuela will become a full
member of South America's Mercosur trade pact in December,
President Hugo Chavez said on Sunday.

Chavez has pushed for a long time for Venezuela to be a
full member of Mercosur, which groups Argentina, Brazil,
Paraguay and Uruguay. Venezuela, the world's no. 5 oil
exporter, is already an associate member of the group.

"Venezuela will go to the next Mercosur summit in December
as a full member," Chavez told a news conference in Salamanca,
where he attended a summit of Latin American, Spanish and
Portuguese leaders that ended on Saturday evening.

As a full member, Venezuela should adopt Mercosur's common
external tariff.

Spain's El Pais newspaper quoted Uruguayan Foreign Minister
Reynaldo Gargano on Sunday as saying at the Salamanca summit
that he had received Venezuela's request to become a full
member of Mercosur three months ago.

Uruguay, as current president of the bloc, passed the
request to Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay and they "replied
positively," Gargano was quoted as saying.

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula Da Silva has been a
keen supporter of expanding Mercosur and also backs a free
trade deal between Mercosur and the Andean countries to create
one big South American trading zone.

Lula's foreign policy adviser Marco Aurelio Garcia said at
the summit on Saturday he did not expect Venezuela's inclusion
as a full member of Mercosur to affect long-running trade talks
between Mercosur and the European Union.

In September, the EU and Mercosur agreed to extend those
talks into 2006 after failing to bridge deep divisions.

Brazilian Trade Minister Luiz Fernando Furlan said recently
there was a chance a deal could be struck next year, after five
years of slow progress.

Discussions broke down in 2004 with Mercosur demanding
lower tariffs for its sugar, beef and poultry exports to the EU
which in turn wants more access to Mercosur's services and
public procurement markets.