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EU official sees trade deal with Mercosur toward year-end

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BUENOSAIRES (Reuters) – The European Union and South America’s Mercosur bloc could reach a trade agreement this year, the president of the European Council said on Monday, following tensions between the two regional blocs during negotiations last month.

“We think we’re going to end negotiations toward the end of the year,” said Ekaterina Zaharieva, the foreign affairs minister for Bulgaria, which now holds the rotating presidency for the EU.

“But of course, it’s much more important to have a good agreement than a worse but faster one,” Zaharieva added in an interview with Reuters at the G20 meeting in Buenos Aires.

The latest round of trade talks, in April, made some progress on car exports but ended with finger-pointing about who was holding up a deal.

Trade talks between the two regional blocs have intensified in recent years following more than a decade of stagnation, but plans to close a deal in late 2017 were derailed by differences over South American agricultural exports.

Mercosur includes the grain- and beef-exporting nations of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay.

(Reporting by Maximiliano Rizzi, Writing by Mitra Taj, editing by G Crosse)

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