South America must strive for closer ties, self-sustainability as economic bloc –Ali tells MERCOSUR

…says infrastructural links with Brazil, Suriname crucial to regional integration

The South American trade block MERCOSUR was told on Thursday that it should strive to establish regional economic integration that will see Member States not only strengthening ties but also becoming self-sustainable.

President Dr Irfaan Ali

This charge was made by President Dr Irfaan Ali during his address to the Summit of Heads of State of MERCOSUR (officially translated to mean Southern Common Market) via a virtual meeting that saw the participation of Heads of States and Representatives from founding members Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay, and from associated states Guyana, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Suriname.
According to the Guyanese President, while the group has already displayed the effectiveness of regional integration, there is need now for the establishment of a self-sustainable economic bloc.
“MERCOSUR has demonstrated the efficacy of regional integration which has now become imperative as the rest of the world becomes more connected through technology and shared interests. We in South American must also strive for closer ties and to build an economic bloc that is dynamic and self-sustaining,” he stated.
On this note, President Ali pointed to the key role that infrastructure plays in this integration process. In fact, he referred to cooperation on infrastructural projects between Guyana and its immediate neighbours.
“Guyana is engaged with our closest neighbours, Brazil and Suriname, in infrastructural projects that will enhance physical connectivity, and boosts trade and investment opportunities between our countries,” the Head of State
These projects include the Guyana to Brazil road link that is set to start construction earlier next year from Mabura Hill to Linden. According to the Guyanese President, this road link will be pivotal in unlocking the potential of the north-eastern ark of South America and connecting the continent with the Caribbean. He also mentioned ongoing discussions for the installation of a fibre optic link between Georgetown and Boa Vista that will seek to provide a more enhanced and reliable regional broadband and internet connectivity.
Further, President Ali outlined that the agreement to bridge Guyana and Suriname via the Corentyne River will open up new opportunities for trade and investments, access to new markets and the facilitation of free movement of people, goods and services.
In addition to infrastructure and technology integration, he also spoke of the prospect of an energy corridor linking the three neighbouring countries.
Meanwhile, the Head of State told regional leaders that since Guyana became an associate member of MERCOSUR in 2013, the country has had the privilege of strengthening its engagement with the group as well as its continental counterparts.
“We have benefitted from the wealth of knowledge and experiences exchanged with our regional neighbours,” he stated.
To this end, President Ali reaffirmed the commitment of Guyana – the region’s only English-speaking nation – to MERCOSUR in pursuit of strengthening political, social and economic ties with its continental neighbours. He posited that the aim is to ensure that there is a more peaceful, prosperous and sustainable future for all citizens of South America.
According to the Guyanese Leader, Guyana strongly shares the values that define the MERCOSUR project, including democracy, the rule of law, the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms. He also pointed to the respect for international law, for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of states and the peaceful settlement of disputes.
“These are all fundamental to ensuring that our region remains a zone of peace and development where the aspirations of our peoples can be realised in full freedom,” he told members of the South American trade bloc.
The Head of State, in addition, underscored the need for the fortification of national health systems and the strengthening of international cooperation and multilateral action on health. He said that this deficit was revealed through the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic that continues to have a devastating impact in the region.
“We are grateful for the support received from continental partners in this regard. We must all learn from our experiences and strengthen systems to prevent, contain and manage the spread of COVID-19 and any other infections that may arise in the future,” the president stressed.
Moreover, President Ali also highlighted that Guyana is prepared to explore regional cooperation initiatives that will ensure a more resilient and sustainable continent.
“We are, daily, experiencing… effects of climate change, which if not adequately addressed, have the potential to destabilise our recovering economies and hinder our development agendas. Therefore, Guyana is prepared to explore regional cooperation initiatives that will help mitigate effects of climate change and natural disasters, and build a safe, more resilient and sustainable South America,” he contended.
The Guyanese Head of State further used the opportunity to continue to seek the of the international community and MERCOSUR in Guyana’s quest to safeguard its territorial integrity.
“We take this opportunity to reiterate our strong adherence to the principles of respect for treaties and international law, the peaceful settlement of disputes, rejecting entirely the threat or use of force, and mutual cooperation for peaceful coexistence among states,” President Ali maintained.
MERCOSUR was established by the Treaty of Asuncion in 1991.