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EU donates €50 mln to Mercosur

The European Union on Monday signed an agreement with the Common Market of the South (Mercosur) to donate the Latin American trade bloc €50 million.

The 34th summit of Mercosur was opened on Monday, focused on the imbalance of economic development among its member countries. EU’s economic and monetary affairs commissioner Joaquin Almunia and Uruguayan Foreign Minister Reinaldo Gargano inked the deal at the sidelines of Mercosur’s summit. Almunia told reporters that the kind gesture was aimed at revitalizing the stalled trade talks between EU and Mercosur. He said the donated funds will be used to boost technical standards among the Mercosur members and educate the public about the importance of the bloc. EU is Mercosur’s largest trading partner. Trade flow between the two reached €60 billion (about $86.5 billion) in 2006, €36 billion of which were Mercosur’s exports to Europe.

The leading official Carlos Alvarez called for the EU on Monday to relax its position and open its market so the two blocs can set up a trade agreement. At a press conference during the two-day Mercosur summit meeting opened in Montevideo Monday, Alvarez, who leads the Mercosur Permanent Representatives Commission or CPRM, criticized the EU for being little different from the United States in terms of its model trade agreements. „What it does is demand that our nations cede our industrial development, autonomous development of services, intellectual property and public purchasing,” said Alvarez, who heads a body that promotes trade inside Mercosur and develops foreign policy for the bloc’s presidency. „Mercosur’s nations are struggling to create a development model which integrates social inclusion, which we called post-neo-liberal. We seek to differentiate from eras where open markets were promoted indiscriminately,” he added.

 
Mercosur was founded in 1991 to promote regional economic integration in Latin America. It now has four full members --Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay, and a few associated members. Paraguay and Uruguay, two smaller economies, applied for bilateral trade deals outside Mercosur without losing full membership status. The meeting will also strive for the elimination of double taxation through a common external tariff arrangement. On Tuesday, Cristina Fernandez, who became Argentina’s president last Monday, would take over the rotating Mercosur presidency from her Uruguayan counterpart Tabare Vazquez. Argentina and Uruguay are arguing over a paper mill on the Uruguayan bank of the Uruguay River, which marks the border between the two nations. Activists in Argentina said that the mill has caused pollution in the river, which violated a bilateral treaty.

Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro on Monday welcomed the public support of the South American Common Market for his country’s accession as a full member. Maduro expressed his appreciation after Mercosur issued a document declaring the above stance at its 34th summit in the Uruguayan capital. „This document means a great deal to us,” he told a press conference. (people.com.cn)