He said Vietnam was an important trade partner to Mercosur, which comprises five members (Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and Venezuela) and six associate members (Bolivia, Chile, Peru, Colombia, Ecuador and Suriname).

The second visit to Vietnam by South American diplomats and enterprises aims to boost trade between Mercosur members and Vietnam by building a “bridge” for businesses on both sides, Caffaro told the Vietnam News Agency.

Along with meetings with the representatives of major Vietnamese firms, the delegation would work with leaders of the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry to discuss the organisation of a visit of ASEAN businesses to Mercosur member countries, he revealed.

Regarding the impact of the establishment of the ASEAN Community on Mercosur, Caffaro said that it was a very positive development for Mercosur, especially in terms of investment.

According to Caffaro, the liberalisation of trade, investment and services, as well as the simplification of administrative procedures among ASEAN members, will create favourable conditions for South American firms in Southeast Asia, helping them save time and money.

He praised the ASEAN Community as an extraordinary model of regional integration that still preserves each member’s diversity and achieves an even level of integration.

Trade between Mercosur and ASEAN had yet to match its huge potential, he said, asserting that this meant there was room for both sides to bolster their partnership.

Founded in 1991, Mercosur is considered a huge economic bloc with a total population of 275 million, or 70% of the South American region, and a combined GDP of USD4.58 trillion, accounting for 82.3% of the region’s GDP.

The Mercosur–ASEAN Chamber of Commerce was set up in December 2013 and is headquartered in Montevideo, Uruguay. It has set up representative offices in Hanoi, Jakarta, Manila, Asuncion and Buenos Aires./.