Saturday, December 09, 2006

South America Runnings: US Trade Deal, Oil help and Unification?

There was much speculation as how the first meeting of (Peru's new President) Alan Garcia and Hugo Chavez would get along this weekend at the South American Summit in Bolivia. According to the press, there were hugs (above), laughter and public talk of putting past electoral pettiness behind them (Chavez had supported Garcia's rival).

Though the two did not meet one-on-one, Mr. Chavez and Peruvian President Alan Garcia took advantage of the summit to bury the hatchet after exchanging personal insults during Mr. Garcia's presidential campaign earlier this year.

But the real news is that the leaders of the major South American nations agreed to move forward on continental integration and unification.

South American leaders agreed Saturday to create a high-level commission to study the idea of forming a continent-wide community similar to the European Union

Hugo Chavez wanted more integration faster. He urged leaders to go beyond typical talks on energy, trade, roads and ports, and take steps to create a formal political and economic confederation. "We need to find a different road, one that is different from neoliberalism which is the road to hell.''

As expected, Rafael Correa and Ecuador got a Christmas gift from Hugo, in the form of oil refinary assistance, which will cut their production costs and boost profits big time.

Meanwhile, last night around midnight, the outgoing US Congress finally passed the languishing trade preferences bill with Haiti, and the Andrean countries (Bolivia, Ecuador, Peru and Colombia). A House version that excluded Ecuador and Bolivia because was left behind in favor of this six-month extension. After that only normal (non preferential) bilateral trade bills will go forward. Rafael Correa and Evo Morales have pledged to reject bilateral trade bills in current form.

Finally, a couple somewhat sensible op-eds in the Boston Herald, Deleware Voice and Minneapolis Star-Tribune.


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