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Mercosur official says "FTAA is dead"

MercoPress, Uruguay

Mercosur official says "FTAA is dead"

22 August 2006

A top Argentine trade official was quoted in Bs. Aires Tuesday as saying the Free Trade Area of the Americas, or FTAA, a hemispheric commerce initiative pushed by the Bush administration, "is dead."

Carlos Alvarez, a high-level official in the Southern Cone Common Market, or Mercosur, trade bloc’s permanent secretariat, said "the FTAA is dead because it implies an asymmetrical model of negotiations between north and south." "The mere fact of giving the region.

Alvarez was referring to the opposition that the FTAA has encountered from Mercosur’s members.

Mercosur’s full members are Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and Venezuela. Chile and Colombia are among the associate members of the trade bloc.

Venezuela, the world’s fifth-largest exporter of crude oil, recently signed its accession agreement and expects to phase in all membership requirements by 2010.

"Unlike other times when there was a greater dependency on the dominant power, the current period is one of having development strategies that will allow the (South American trade) bloc to operate with greater autonomy," Alvarez said.

He defended Mercosur’s decision to back Venezuela’s candidacy for one of the rotating seats on the U.N. Security Council for the 2007-2008 period.

"It’s not the same Mercosur of the 1990s, essentially trade, as the one today, where they talk about productive development, social and in the energy" area, Alvarez said.

Mercosur, one of the world’s largest trade blocs, has more than 210 million consumers.

Since the founding in 1991 of Mercosur in the central Argentine city of Cordoba, trade within the bloc has surged from $4.12 billion to nearly $21.11 billion, while the region’s gross domestic product, or GDP, climbed from $650 billion to $990 billion, and direct foreign investment soared from $2.6 billion to $20.24 billion.

Brazil and Argentina, the two largest economies in the trade bloc, account for some 97 percent of the regional GDP, according to economists.

Some 97 percent of trade within the bloc is also dominated by Argentina and Brazil.