The 35th Common Market of the South (Mercosur) summit opened Tuesday in Argentina's northern city of Tucoman with global energy and food prices topping the agenda.
Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner said at the opening ceremony that a great deal of speculation capital is moving to the food market from the financial market, which prompt an increase in global food prices.
Surging food prices make developing countries including Mercosur members face severe challenges, Cristina said. She added that Latin American countries meet many similar problems and challenges, and therefore stepping up the integration process is a strategic option for Mercosur.
The summit will focus on the impact of the energy crisis and surging food prices on the region.
During the summit, participants will discuss how to address the problems and further integrate economies of member states into a regional powerhouse.
In addition, Mercosur's leaders will also discuss new EU immigration laws and sign a series of agreements to promote regional integration and strengthen cooperation in other fields.
At the summit, Brazil took over the rotating presidency of Mercosur from Argentina with a half-year term.
The presidents of five member states -- Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and Venezuela -- participated in the summit.
Mercosur, established in 1991, groups Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay as full members and Bolivia, Colombia, Chile, Ecuador, Peru as associate members. Venezuela signed a membership agreement in 2006 but awaits formal ratification to become a full member.