Uruguayan Vice president Danilo Astori and members of the opposition ratified the country’s increasing concern about Mercosur which is “full of obstacles and problems” and is described as “sleepy and in state of lethargy”.
“When Uruguay joined Mercosur in 1991 it was one of the most important strategic decision for Uruguay in contemporary history, but 22 years later we have discovered a great number of problems and this kind of ongoing paralysis”, said Astori.
The regional block “is lacking that collective conviction which is essential to push ahead an enterprise”, complained Astori. Uruguay currently holds the six months Mercosur rotating chair until next June.
Over the last three years Argentina and Brazil restrictive policies on Uruguayan exports have had a serious impact on local manufacturing, and the government has attempted direct negotiations with both countries to make their positions more flexible.
But Vice-president Astori also underlined the significance of Venezuela’s full membership of Mercosur given its condition of an energy heavyweight, besides the fact that “Venezuela should help to balance the natural asymmetries existent in the block” with predominance of Brazil and Argentina.
This vision is also shared by the legislative opposition. However Senator Jose Amorin from the junior opposition Colorado party underlined that his party long time ago warned that “this lethargy situation was coming” and recalled that when Astori was Economy minister during the previous administration of President Tabare Vazquez he would reply “what we need is more and better Mercosur”.
“Astori was the pole bearer of this position. When we had the chance to open to the world, when the US invited us to join in a free trade market, at first he supported it and then rapidly changed going to the extent of arguing that fortunately we didn’t sign it”, recalled Senator Amorin.
Senator Sergio Abreu, Foreign minister in 1991, said Mercosur is “dead” because of the inaction of the country members. He also criticized the administration of President Jose Mujica for intervening in the internal affairs pf Paraguay that has been suspended until next August for the removal of Fernando Lugo following a political impeachment in the Senate.
“I think (Mercosur) presidents are downplaying the right of non intervention in the domestic affairs of other countries; I call it ‘presidential corporativism’, a club that argues that their legitimacy comes from the popular vote, but the rest of the other tools and institutions that make to democracy as government in three branches, freedom of the press, an autonomous justice system are less essential, because they are considered ‘bourgeois elements’ that they have to live with”.
President Mujica only recently described Mercosur ‘not as a trade accord’ but a “very poor customs union”, nevertheless he insisted that working for integration ‘is the most rational and convincing step’”.
Mujica also warned about the “colossal” economic and trade spaces in the making such as those proposed by the US and the EU and said countries “are dead-scared of being left out of this new trend” and Uruguay urgently needs to overcome the “Mercosur dilemma”.
Mujica also revealed that Uruguay has received proposals for a free trade agreement from South Korea and Russia, and the Pacific Community (Chile, Peru, Colombia and Mexico), but there are “pachyderm” conditions to overcome to again start moving “because instead of facilitating trade fluidity, obstacles keep increasing and we have an inevitable discussion in the waiting and all of this further complicates the situation”.