The leaders of the South American trade bloc, Mercosur, are now talking of integrating their economies with Canada, South Korea, and Singapore, through a trade agreement similar to the one they struck with the European Union last month.
At a recent meeting in the Argentinian city of Santa Fe, Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro called for speeding up the implementation of the deals the bloc signed in recent years.
The deal with the European Union has been hailed widely, as it brings together markets of some 800 million people, opening up huge opportunities for farmers across South America.
As part of the agreement, the European Union will cut duties worth US$4.5 billion on goods imported from the South American countries.
Mercosur is hoping to sell its traditional products – such as beef, poultry and sugar – to European countries, while the EU wants to cash in on the demand for pharma, auto and industrial products in South America.
Founded in 1991, Mercosur had once vowed to promote free movement of goods, people, as well as currency. But the emergence of socialist governments in countries likes Argentina suppressed its ambitions.
Over the past decades, all it could achieve was a customs union, in which there is free intra-zone trade and a common trade policy between member countries.
In last week’s meeting, the member countries (Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay) agreed to remove “roaming” fees for international mobile phone calls, and share information on migrants.
Citizens of these countries who are stuck abroad can now seek help from the embassies of any of the four countries.