BRASILIA, June 30 (Xinhua) -- The Southern Common Market (Mercosur) must explore new exchanges with the world, but without allowing its members to strike independent bilateral trade deals, Brazilian Foreign Minister Jose Serra told Xinhua in an interview.
The minister sought to lay out Brazil's vision for the bloc, which is made up of Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay and Venezuela, and for its own foreign trade policies, under the leadership of interim president Michel Temer.
"We need to show all the possibilities and real benefits being offered by finding countries to partner with. Brazil has stopped being defensive in this area," said Serra. "We need a certain flexibility, but without making independent bilateral trade deals. Otherwise, the common actions of the Mercosur countries could end up being swallowed up."
The possibility that Mercosur partners should be allowed to negotiate independent deals has returned to the fore this week after the decision by the UK to leave the European Union (Brexit), with some analysts speculating Brazil might seek to follow suit and leave Mercosur.
According to Serra, to avoid such debates, Mercosur needs to first consolidate its own free-trade zone and remove restrictions that continue to exist between member countries.
"We still have internal barriers after almost three decades. We have to take a step forward in liberalizing our internal trade," said the minister.
Serra also thinks it would be good for Mercosur members to jointly expand economic relations with the rest of the world, including China.
"We have great interest in deepening our economic and commercial ties with China, in a pragmatic and balanced way. The foundation of any expansion must be the search for common benefits. We can take great steps forward in removing tariffs and diversifying our trading basket," he explained.
This is why Brazil views in a very positive light the discussions happening between the governments of China and Argentina to grow commercial and investment links.
"It is perfectly normal for Brazil and Argentina to have deep relations with China. Brazil and Argentina are strategic allies, united by numerous links, including Mercosur. There is no problem in both countries seeking to increase ties with China," Serra noted.
In terms of the future of Mercosur, he said the bloc is currently negotiating a free-trade agreement with the EU, a process which is a major priority for Brazil and which Brexit should not be allowed to affect. Enditem