EU secures trade agreement with Mercosur

The Mercosur trade bloc and the European Union announced Friday that they had clinched a “strategic association” trade deal.

The deal was agreed in Brussels after more than 20 years of negotiations, they said in a statement.

Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro said it was “historic” and “one of the most important trade deals of all time.”

In a statement, Brazil said the deal would eliminate tariffs on products such as orange juice, instant coffee and fruit, which are exported from South America.

The Mercosur trade bloc consists of Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay, a region with 260 million consumers.

The EU has in the past hesitated to take beef from Mercosur, while the South American partners worried over industrial sectors, including autos.

But they intensified efforts to reach an accord after Donald Trump’s presidential victory prompted the EU to freeze talks with the United States and look for other global trading allies.

In addition to Canada, the EU has free trade agreements with Japan and Mexico.

The agreement comes at a critical time in global trade as the U.S. becomes an unreliable partner on trade, engaged in trade wars with China and others.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker alluded to those trade tensions in his statement.

“In the midst of international trade tensions, we are sending today a strong signal with our Mercosur partners that we stand for rules-based trade,” Juncker said.

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