Quito, Ecuador (UPI) Mar 11, 2011
The Union of South American Nations is aiming to become a political and strategic force to reckon with in Latin America, with the European Union always in the background as the ultimate model to copy.
Foreign ministers from Unasur member nations met in the Ecuadorian capital Friday to put the finishing touches to the union's charter and treaty.
Unasur was formed in 2008 with the aim of integrating the Mercosur customs union and trade bloc and the Andean Community of Nations as part of a continuing process of South American integration. But the current grouping of 12 full members falls short of a full range of South and Central American nations that the organization set out to unite.
Mercosur's decision to go ahead with EU trade talks independent of Unasur sent a strong signal that Unasur was far from achieving its goal of becoming the predominant economic and political union in the region.
However, a combined population of 396 million makes the 12-member union an attractive port of call for countries or other regional groups seeking to expand ties with Latin America.
The current ministerial talks are aimed at choosing a successor to Nestor Kirchner, the former Argentine president who was elected the first secretary-general when the leaders met in Argentina in May 2010. Kirchner died last October.
Two candidates are vying for the post: Venezuela's Electricity Minister Ari Rodriguez, an energy expert, and Maria Emma Mejia, a former Colombian deputy foreign affairs minister, expert in international law and social inclusion.
Also Friday, the Constitutive Treaty signed in 2008 comes into force formalizing the birth of Unasur as a legal entity with headquarters in Mitad del Mundo, Ecuador.
Unasur members are: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Venezuela and Uruguay.
Ecuadorian Foreign Affairs Ricardo Patino said that consolidation of Unasur will help political understanding and coordination among countries of the region and integration in areas such as infrastructure, health, education, social inclusion and energy development.
He said the member nations would seek agreements that went further than trade accords and led to eventual integration of the member states.
"What we are talking about is for agreements to go much further, not limited to trade issues but also to regional integration," said Patino, pointing to the benefits of an energy connectivity in the Andes area and integrated social security.
Within the short span of its existence Unasur has proved effective in defusing several regional conflicts including the confrontation between Venezuela and Colombia.
earlier related report
Washington said it was "deeply troubled" by the outcome while China claimed a "major victory."
A WTO dispute settlement panel had rejected parts of the original Chinese complaint against the United States in a mixed and highly complex ruling delivered last October.
But the Geneva-based trade watchdog's appeals body on Friday reversed at least two key points of those findings following Beijing's appeal in the latest episode in a series of bruising trade battles between the economic giants.
It called on the United States "to bring its measures found... to be inconsistent" with the WTO's agreed rules "into conformity with its obligations under that agreement," according to the 232 page report by the appellate body.
"I am deeply troubled by this report," US Trade Representative Ron Kirk said in an e-mailed statement.
"It appears to be a clear case of overreaching by the appellate body," he added. "We are reviewing the findings closely in order to understand fully their implications."
Last October, the arbitrators had upheld China's complaint against the US Department of Commerce on five elements of the case, but had rejected China's contentions on several more points.
China welcomed the outcome of its appeal, which covers the lucrative trade in materials used in a host of areas from plumbing to fencing and cheap car tyres.
"The report found that the measures taken by the United States against China flouted world trade rules," a statement published online by China's commerce ministry said, calling it "a major victory".
The 153 WTO member states have a right to levy extra duty specifically targeting excessively cheap imports after their own probe, although the anti-dumping measures may subsequently be challenged in the WTO by the exporting nation.
When Beijing formally lodged the complaint in September 2008, it targeted "unfair practices" that Washington applied during the US investigation that produced the extra duties on Chinese goods in 2007.
The WTO had admitted last October that its independent legal and trade experts had delayed their verdict by about a year as they grappled with the "substantive complexity" of the case.
Fast growing China's gradually opening economy and its supported export industries have been targeted by a series of complaints by rival trade powers, the European Union and the United States.
However, China has also made increasing use of the WTO's settlement system, which is aimed at avoiding all-out trade wars, since it joined the global body about a decade ago.
Beijing has so far lodged eight complaints, six against the United States and two against the European Union.
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