South American Trade Bloc Leaders Meet In Paraguay

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Leaders from the South American trade bloc Mercosur are meeting for a presidential summit in Paraguay. Top of the agenda is increased trade and better cooperation within the zone. Here are the details.

Leaders from South American trade bloc Mercosur met in Luque, Paraguay for a summit aimed at tightening integration and increasing trade within the zone.

The heads of state arrived in to the summit just outside Paraguay's capital Asuncion to discuss cooperation in the trade bloc, which includes Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay.

[Fernando Lugo, Paraguayan President]:
"The Paraguayan people are happy to have the opportunity to have you, our sister countries in our dear Paraguay. A fraternal hug and a sincere gratitude for having you here with us which means so much to be able to welcome you here in this Guarani country."

Mercosur members are grappling with cheap Chinese imports that have hammered sectors such as Brazil's shoe industry.

The four economies are keen to reduce their dependence on commodity exports.

Upon arrival, Uruguayan President Jose Mujica says the bloc faces many challenges.

[Jose Mujica, Uruguayan President]:
"Creating integration is full of difficulties, full of hope and duty. Thank you, ladies and gentlemen. [Journalist asks: How is the Mercosur?] It is relatively healthy, but we're getting through it."

Mercosur is a major exporter of grains and other commodities, while it imports most of its consumer goods.

While demand is seen increasing for food, energy and the mineral wealth of Mercosur countries, the bloc hopes to increase its offering of manufactured exports as well.

Mercosur is likely to expand with Venezuela awaiting approval from Paraguay's congress to enter as a full member.

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