April 22, 2006

Leaving Andean pact won’t hurt Venezuela: minister

CARACAS, Venezuela (Reuters) - Venezuela's withdrawal from
the Andean Community trade bloc, announced by President Hugo
Chavez this week, will not hurt the world's No. 5 oil exporter,
Foreign Minister Ali Rodriguez said on Saturday.

Chavez, who has attacked members of the bloc for signing
trade pacts with the United States said on Wednesday that
Venezuela was withdrawing from the group.

Andean Community members Colombia and Peru have signed
free-trade agreements with the United States. Ecuador and
Bolivia also belong to the bloc.

Venezuela's withdrawal raised concerns that the country's
economy could suffer as a result.

"What some pessimists have announced, that this will bring
grave consequences to the industrial sector and unemployment,
has no serious basis," Rodriguez said at a news conference.

Maria Cristina Iglesias, minister of light industry and
trade, said at the same news conference that leaving the pact
would require a transition period of about five years.

She said trade between the countries would not be affected
and no jobs would be lost, and that new ones would be created
as areas such as the textile, plastics and petrochemical
industries were allowed to flourish.