Lula says Mercosur eyeing fresh trade deals, increased regional commerce

SAO PAULO (Reuters) -Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said on Tuesday he wants the Mercosur trade bloc to advance in talks for deals with Canada, South Korea and Singapore, while aiming to increase commerce with other countries in Latin America and Asia.

The leftist president’s remarks during a summit of Mercosur leaders in Argentina came as he took temporary presidency of the bloc, which comprises Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay.

The Mercosur has been holding negotiation rounds for trade deals with the three countries mentioned by Lula for years now, according to the Organization of American States (OAS), with advances seen especially since 2018.

In addition to those three nations, Lula said, Mercosur could also “explore new negotiation fronts” with China, Indonesia, Vietnam and countries in Central America and the Caribbean.

The Brazilian leader reaffirmed he is committed to completing the trade agreement struck in 2019 between the bloc and the European Union, but again called some addenda proposed by EU “unacceptable”.

He singled out for criticism an addendum introducing penalties for nations failing to comply with climate goals and a procurement clause allowing European companies to sell to Brazil’s public sector.

Lula, who has been pushing for greater integration between Latin American countries, said he also sees room for more trade between Mercosur nations and Chile, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru, while also calling for Bolivia’s accession to the bloc.

“It is urgent that Bolivia becomes a full member of Mercosur,” he said, adding he would work to get Brazil’s Congress to approve the neighboring country’s accession.

The heads of the Mercosur decided to accept Bolivia as a full member in 2015, but its entrance needs to be authorized by congresses of the full members.

Bolivia is currently an “associated state,” the same status held by Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru and Suriname. Venezuela ascended to full membership in 2012 but ended up suspended five years later.

(Reporting by Gabriel Araujo and Eduardo Simoes; Editing by Isabel Woodford and David Gregorio)