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South American leaders approve common customs rules

August 4th, 2010

The leaders approved a common customs code, agreed to eliminate the double taxation of imports from 2012.

South American presidents agreed on Tuesday to unify their countries’ customs rules as they seek to bolster booming regional trade that is helping their economies rebound.

At a summit of the Mercosur trade bloc in Argentina, the leaders approved a common customs code, agreed to eliminate the double taxation of imports from 2012 and also signed a free-trade deal with Egypt.

The customs accords capped 5 1/2 years of negotiations by members of Mercosur, which groups Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay.

“We’ve all made a big effort to approve the customs code in this session,” said Argentine President Cristina Fernandez in the northern city of San Juan, adding that the deal would help the bloc be more competitive on the international stage.

“All this means the region … plays a more important role in international policy, where there are already signs of new players and new protagonists,” she said.

Founded in 1991 to boost trade and integrate the economies of South America, Mercosur has failed to make major gains in recent years, partly because of on-and-off commercial friction between its biggest members Brazil and Argentina.

Argentina and Brazil have differed since the global downturn over Buenos Aires’ trade measures meant to protect Argentine industry. Brazil said the informal and formal measures have hurt its exports of food and other goods.

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva reiterated his opposition to U.N. Security Council sanctions against Iran and defended his call for talks to seek a solution to the stand-off over its nuclear program.

Bolivia, Chile, Colombia and Peru are associate members of Mercosur and Venezuela is in the process of joining.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez did not attend the meeting but sent Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro.

Maduro called for Paraguay’s Congress to approve Caracas’ bid for full Mercosur membership, which would clear the only remaining obstacle to the country’s entry to the bloc.


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