SAO PAULO, Dec 18 (Reuters) - Brazilian President Michel Temer said at a meeting of the South American trade bloc Mercosur in Uruguay on Tuesday that he is optimistic of a deal with the European Union next year.
Temer’s successor, far-right nationalist President-elect Jair Bolsonaro, and his cabinet appointees have indicated they prefer bilateral deals and see little use for Mercosur.
Bolsonaro, who takes office on Jan. 1, has criticized Mercosur as hampering Brazil’s economic interests. The next economy minister, Paulo Guedes, has said bilateral deals will be Brazil’s focus, not trying to work through Mercosur.
Late last month, Bolsonaro pointed toward what he said was European protectionism on agriculture, which he said if included in any proposed deal would “logically not have our support.”
Last week, German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned that time was running out for any EU-Mercosur deal, which has been in the works for several years, and that the Bolsonaro government would make an agreement far more difficult.
Brazil’s outgoing Agriculture Minister Blairo Maggi said that it was the Europeans holding up any deal despite flexibility being shown by Brazil. (Reporting by Brad Brooks; editing by Grant McCool)