Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Ernesto Derbez said on Friday that his government had formally requested the accession to the Common Market of the South (Mercosur) as an associate member.
Speaking to press after the 30th Mercosur summit's plenary session, Derbez said he had formally expressed "Mexico's interest in being considered for an associate membership of Mercosur."
Derbez was a special guest at the summit that took place on Thursday and Friday in the Argentine city Cordoba. Mexico has been a Mercosur observer since 2004.
The foreign minister said he hoped an associate membership deal would be clinched by the end of Mexican President Vicente Fox's term that expires on Dec. 1.
Derbez said Brazil had cast aside doubts about having Mexico as an associate member, when Fox and Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva met on Sunday in Russia's St. Petersburg on the sidelines of the G8 summit, where both were special guests.
Mercosur and Mexico began negotiating a free trade agreement, the first between the bloc and an outside nation, a year ago. But there have been few significant advances.
South Americans accuse Mexico of paying little attention to them, but "Mexico is really a country that has been looking south and asking to be an associate member for the last four years," Derbez argued.
Mexico is a member of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which also includes Canada and the United States. Mercosur does not allow members to have free trade agreements with other nations outside the bloc.