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Caracas, Friday December 09 , 2005  
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Venezuela to enter Mercosur with no right to vote

The Southern Common Market (Mercosur) has started the slow diplomatic engines driving Venezuela to enter this trade bloc, in a move that is to allow an energy-thirsty region to partner with the world's fifth oil producer.

Negotiators paved the way for the Presidents of the nations comprising the bloc to announce Friday that Venezuela is to become the first country to enter Mercosur as a full member since the organization was created by Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay in 1991.

For Mercosur, this move involves greater links with a giant oil producer that has been making efforts to cement closer regional ties through investments and oil sales under favorable conditions.

Venezuela is to enter Mercosur "with a right to speak but not to vote" as a full member in the process of completing membership, said Eduardo Sigal, Mercosur assistant secretary of Economic Integration.

Until May 2006, Caracas will have time to assess the common market legal framework, and then a joint committee is to determine -in a six-month period- the deadlines for Venezuela to accommodate the bloc regulations, including the thorny issue of Mercosur common foreign tariffs.

Even though the founder countries took almost four years to harmonize their tariffs, their market still has a significant number of exemptions.

Meanwhile, Venezuela is to have an intermediate status "higher than an associate member, but not as high as full members," said Sigal.

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