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Mexico closer to South America than ever

In an attempt to reduce the excessive dependence of the Mexican economy on the United States, Mexico’s President Vicente Fox discussed further political and trade integration with his South American counterparts at Mercosur block summit in Argentina this week.

Brazil and Argentina welcomed Fox decision to associate Mexico to the Mercosur trade block which also comprises Paraguay and Uruguay and has Peru, Chile and Bolivia as associated members.

Mexico’s move toward its Southern neighbours comes after one decade of alignment with Washington, in which the country entered into the NAFTA trade block after its worst financial crisis in years. Ties with the White House where at their best when George W. Bush announced the US had no better partner in the world than Mexico. That was in 2000. However, September 11 attacks made Bush to change its view on foreign affairs and Mexico lost its privileged position.

Then, as money and migration yank Mexico toward the north, President Vicente Fox began seeking balance in the South. According to last estimations, as much as eighty-nine percent of Mexico's legal exports go to the United States, while ten percent of its population lives there. The largest share of its income from tourism and foreign remittance - and the huge market in illegal drugs, for that matter - comes from the United States. That explains why Fox is anxious about reducing the huge dependence of his country on US economy.

While Mexico’s domestic front is on fire after Fox’s powerful spokesman resigned amid a scandal with the political ambitions of President’s wife, its leaders look for a new level of cooperation with their Latin fellows. In declarations to the Argentine press, Fox said Mexico wanted to enter into Mercosur as an associated member. Argentina and Brazil welcomed Fox’s realignment, as well as they did when Venezuela, Peru and even Cuba asked the same.   

Now Mercosur, despite its internal trade disputes, includes most powerful Latin American economies: Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Peru, Uruguay and Paraguay, while Venezuela and Mexico wait for their formal membership approval. However, Venezuela does not lose time: President Hugo Chavez, announced the creation of a joint oil company with Argentina (Petrosur) which also leaves the door open to the further participation of other State controlled Latin American companies ( i.e. Brazil’s Petrobras and Mexico’s Pemex).

However, Mercosur ambitions go beyond boosting trade records. Brazil, Argentina and Mexico do not hide their intention to look for a new permanent seat at the U.N. Security Council for Latin America, even if they have been rivals in competing for the possible position. Russia, according to PRAVDA.Ru sources in Argentina, would support the initiative.

Hernan Etchaleco

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