By Lisandra Paraguassu
RIO DE JANEIRO – A summit of the South American trade bloc Mercosur ended on Friday without a final presidential statement, as member nations failed to reach an agreement to reduce import tariffs amid a sharp rise in inflation.
Members of Mercosur, a common market formed by Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay, have for years discussed a reduction of the so-called common external tariff to help increase trade between them and the rest of the world. Calls for a reduction have grown in recent months as inflation has risen.
In November, Brazil’s government announced a 10% reduction in import tariffs on 87% of goods and services, in a move that was expected to add pressure on other Mercosur members to follow suit and presage an agreement on the common external tariff.
But on Friday, the member states were unable to hash out an agreement after Uruguay declined to sign on unless other countries agreed to let it negotiate its own unilateral free trade deals without the blessing of Mercosur nations.
Mercosur’s rules veto this type of negotiation, and Argentina and Paraguay are against it. Brazil is less averse, according to Pedro Miguel da Costa e Silva, Brazil’s lead Mercosur negotiator.
(Reporting by Lisandra Paraguassu, Editing by Gabriel Stargardter and Rosalba O’Brien)