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I think that's the reason for drafting characters at the start of the game. If you see someone choose Kokochin before you, you wouldn't then choose Mercator because that would not be advantageous.
Conversely, if someone chose Mercator first, it would then be a very good move to choose Kokochin as your own character. The point is, making strategic choices is a big part of The Voyages of Marco Polo, so you should choose your character wisely.
That essentially sounds like you're agreeing that Kokochin effectively reduces the value of Mercator.