Brazil President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva on Wednesday called for South American trade bloc Mercosur to urgently seal a free trade agreement with the European Union before negotiating with China.
Lula made the comments in Uruguay, which has been pursuing its own commercial deal with Beijing, despite opposition from Mercosur.
The EU reached a trade agreement in 2019 with Mercosur, which is made up of Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay, following 20 years of negotiations, but the deal hasn't been ratified.
"We will step up our discussions with the EU and sign this agreement so that we can then discuss a deal between China and Mercosur," Lula said in Montevideo, where he met with President Luis Lacalle Pou.
The failure to ratify the EU-Mercosur deal has angered many in Europe, particularly in the agriculture and ecology sectors. It needs to be ratified individually by the parliament of every one of the 27 EU states to come into effect.
Despite negotiating with China directly, Uruguay "is part of Mercosur, and that has not changed," insisted Lacalle Pou.
Uruguay had for years pushed for greater flexibility within Mercosur but its negotiations with China sparked opposition from fellow members and even rumors that the bloc could break up.
"There are no obstacles to informing Brazil (and) Argentina about what is being negotiated," said Lacalle Pou.
Uruguay has also applied to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership -- a trade agreement involving countries in Asia and Australasia -- without the agreement of its Mercosur partners.
© Agence France-Presse
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