Argentina hopes for agreement on EU-Mercosur trade deal by year end

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Argentina hopes to have an agreement on a free trade deal between the European Union and the South American Mercosur bloc by the end of the year, its foreign minister said on Thursday.

The European Union and Mercosur launched trade negotiations in 1999, but they have faced multiple setbacks, partly due to more than a decade of leftist rule in Argentina.

That government has now replaced by a more pro-business government since late 2015 that advocates trade.

“We hope that it will be by the end of the year, but it is not a deadline. It could be in the first quarter of the coming year,” Argentine foreign minister Susana Malcorra told a press briefing in Brussels.

“We would like to at least make an announcement at the WTO meeting in Buenos Aires that things are sufficiently close,” she added.

Trade ministers will convene in Buenos Aires in December for a meeting of the World Trade Organisation.

Malcorra named issues around rules of origin as well as food safety measures as important points that still needed to be discussed.

The EU and Mercosur exchanged market access offers in May of last year, including lists of imports that each side was prepared to liberalise.

Reporting by Robert-Jan Bartunek; Editing by Toby Chopra