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THE WEEK AHEAD

ASUNCION : South American First

March 26, 1991

The presidents of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay meet today in the Paraguayan capital to sign a treaty for the creation of South America's first common market.

According to the draft treaty, import duties on products traded among the four countries will be reduced progressively starting in July. Brazil and Argentina are to eliminate tariffs on intra-market trade by 1995, with Uruguay and Paraguay to follow in 1996. The pact also will establish a common tariff for members' trade outside the group, which has been named the Southern Cone Common Market, or Mercosur.

The trade talks between Brazil and Argentina began in 1985; Uruguay and Paraguay joined in later. The four countries have a combined population of nearly 200 million and trade $5.5 billion worth of goods with each other annually.

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