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Chavez may consider Venezuela’s return to Andean Pact

Chavez May Consider Venezuela’s Return to Andean Pact

April 24 2006 (Bloomberg) — Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said he would consider returning to the Andean Community of Nations trade bloc provided Colombia and Peru reconsider trade agreements with the U.S.

Chavez said yesterday Venezuela’s withdrawal from the Andean Community was irrevocable and that he plans to raise trade barriers against Colombia and Peru.

``I would be willing to reconsider Venezuela’s measure if Colombia and Peru reconsider the free trade agreement,’’ Chavez said in a televised news conference in Caracas.

Chavez, 51, said that free-trade agreements between the U.S. and Andean countries would endanger the viability of the organization, which was founded in 1969 and also includes Ecuador and Bolivia.

Bolivia’s President Evo Morales today asked Peru and Colombia to scrap free trade agreements with the U.S. in a bid to ``save’’ the Andean Community, whose members had trade of almost $9 billion last year.

``It’s important not to abandon the people who fight against the U.S. free trade agreement,’’ Morales said in the statement posted to the presidential Web site. ``We must save the Andean Community. To pull out would mean abandoning our people.’’

Peru signed an agreement with the U.S. April 12, while Colombia wrapped up negotiations in February. The agreements need congressional approval in all three countries.

``We’re out of the Andean Community,’’ Chavez said. ``The trade agreements among us will continue for five years but we may seek to end those agreements sooner.’’

Colombia and Venezuela are the two largest members of the Andean free-trade group. Colombian-Venezuelan trade was about $2.5 billion in 2004.

Venezuelan joined the Mercosur trade block, which includes Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay, in January as a special member, meaning it can’t vote on group decisions.

 source: Bloomberg