Mercosur could seek trade deals with Canada, Australia, New Zealand

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - The South American trade bloc Mercosur could seek trade deals with Canada, Australia and New Zealand this year, an Argentine official said on Wednesday, as largest members Brazil and Argentina seek to open their economies.

Mercosur, which also includes Uruguay and Paraguay, is working with the European Union to finalize the political framework for a trade deal this year, at a time when the United States under Donald Trump has been shying away from trade.

“There is a possibility that Mercosur starts negotiations with Canada, Australia and New Zealand this year,” Argentine Commerce Secretary Miguel Braun said at the Thomson Reuters Economic and Business forum in Buenos Aires.

“Integrating ourselves with these countries takes us in the direction we want to go,” he said, pointing to developed economies with high salaries.

Argentina alone is seeking a trade agreement with Mexico, and the foreign ministry said later on Wednesday that it had finalized a trade deal with neighboring Chile.

The ministry’s statement noted that the agreement would touch on regulations surrounding investments, services, public purchases, telecommunications and e-commerce. The agreement will be officially signed in October after a legal review.

Braun said that the deal with Chile would “deepen what we already have.”

Chilean President Michelle Bachelet said in New York last week that the agreement would boost trade and open opportunities for investors.

Reporting by Caroline Stauffer; Additional reporting by Dion Rabouin in New York and Luc Cohen in Santiago; Editing by Sandra Maler