A historic trade pact between South American countries and the EU is expected to pave the way to similar deals with Canada and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) this year, Brazil's top negotiator said Tuesday.
The European Union and Mercosur trade bloc countries Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay announced a blockbuster agreement Friday, ending 20 years of talks over one of the world's biggest regional commercial accords.
Mercosur was "very close" to reaching trade deals with the EFTA's Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland, Brazil's Pedro Miguel da Costa e Silva told a news conference attended by Foreign Minister Ernesto Araujo.
"I also think we can close (a deal) with Canada," he said, adding Mercosur negotiators were making progress in talks with Singapore and South Korea.
Araujo estimated two more agreements could be reached in the next six months, saying the EU-Mercosur deal had "increased interest" of other trade partners.
"This agreement unlocked and accelerated other negotiations," Araujo said.
It put Brazil "at the center of great global decisions, of being a country that opens its economy," he added.
Under the EU-Mercosur trade deal, 91 percent of customs duties on European imports into the Mercosur countries will eventually be scrapped.
In return, the EU will abolish 92 percent of duties currently imposed on South American imports.
Not everyone, however, has welcomed the deal.
France said Tuesday it would not be rushing to ratify the agreement, as farmers and environmentalists stepped up their resistance to the accord.
Brazil's agriculture sector also has expressed concern over the potential abuse of the deal's "precautionary principle" for food safety.
The mechanism enables European authorities to suspend approval for products if they perceive a risk to human, animal or plant health, even in the absence of conclusive scientific evidence.