Mercosur bloc presidents agree to raise tariffs

MONTEVIDEO,  (Reuters) – Presidents of the  Mercosur trade bloc yesterday agreed to individually raise  tariffs on imports to shield their industries from a flood of  cheaper imported goods 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.”

Hugo Chavez

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.

The 57-year-old socialist leader aims to quell concerns over  his health after doctors removed a large tumor from his pelvis  and gave him chemotherapy. He plans to run for another six-year  term in an October presidential election.

“I’ve overcome the most difficult phase of this cancer,”  Chavez told reporters upon arrival in Montevideo. “I’m fully  back on my feet and here to make a strong play for Latin  America’s integration and unity.”

Venezuela has been aiming for full status in the trade bloc  for years, but congressional approvals have been slow to come  and Paraguayan legislators continue to block the move.

Chavez appealed to the bloc’s smaller members, saying “the  day we have full membership in Mercosur, Uruguay and Paraguay  will be able to sell much more to Venezuela.”

Earlier in the day, Ecuador President Rafael Correa also  said his country hopes to become a full member of Mercosur.

The summit was interrupted earlier on 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.

BAN ON
FALKLANDS

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.

The South Atlantic islands are a powerful Argentine national  symbol and the government often reiterates its sovereignty claim  over the archipelago almost 30 years after Argentina and Britain  went to war over it.

Britain has in turn protested to Argentina over its  interception of UK-licensed fishing boats in disputed waters  near the Falkland Islands.

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