Mercosur members to raise tariffs on imports

Mercosur members to raise tariffs on imports

Mercosur members to raise tariffs on imports

Argentine President Cristina Kirchner (L) and her Foreign Affairs Minister Hector Timerman are seen at the XLII Mercosur Summit in Montevideo on Dec 20. AFP photo

Mercosur trade bloc presidents on Dec. 20 agreed to individually raise tariffs on imports to shield their industries from a flood of cheaper imports stemming from the global economic crisis.

At a meeting in Uruguay’s capital, full members Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay said the plan to hike duties aims to protect industries from what Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff called “an avalanche of predatory imports that jeopardize growth and employment.”

During Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s first official trip abroad since undergoing cancer surgery in June, Mercosur countries also pushed for Venezuela’s incorporation into the trade bloc.

Venezuela has been aiming for full status for years, but congressional approvals have been slow to come and Paraguayan legislators continue to block the move. On Dec 20., Ecuador President Rafael Correa also said his country hopes to become a full member.

The summit was previously interrupted when Ivan Heyn, Argentina’s deputy foreign trade secretary and a member of the country’s delegation, was found dead in his hotel room. Uruguayan police said it appeared to be a suicide.

In an act of solidarity with Argentina, Chavez and his counterparts said vessels sailing under a Falkland Islands flag would be banned from docking at Mercosur ports.
But the summit’s focus was on safeguarding the region’s prosperity.