August 3, 2010 / 5:10 AM / 10 years ago

Mercosur bloc signs free-trade deal with Egypt

SAN JUAN, Argentina (Reuters) - Mercosur, a South American trade bloc that groups big agricultural exporters Brazil and Argentina, signed a free-trade deal with Egypt on Monday, Argentina’s industry minister said.

The agreement opens up a market of 76 million consumers to the trade bloc, which also includes Paraguay and Uruguay. Mercosur’s member states also export cars and autoparts.

“This opens new opportunities for products that until now we didn’t sell (to Egypt), such as cars, autoparts, medicines, paper products, chicken, fruit, among others,” Industry Minister Debora Giorgi said in the northern city of San Juan, where a Mercosur summit is taking place.

The trade bloc is also negotiating trade pacts with Jordan, Morocco and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), which groups Gulf states including Saudi Arabia and Qatar. The deal with Egypt took six years to wrap up.

Egypt is the world’s biggest importer of wheat and Argentina is among the leading global exporters of the grain, although it did not export wheat to the North African country last year, according to official data.

The North African country is a significant buyer of Argentine corn and soy products.

Egypt’s exports to Brazil, the largest economy in Latin America, totaled $87.7 million in 2009, while its imports came to $1.53 billion, the Egyptian Trade Ministry reported.

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