Brazil's President Michel Temer said on Monday that he and Argentine counterpart Mauricio Macri had agreed to work together to strengthen the Mercosur trade bloc and seek an agreement with the European Union.
Temer, who formally took over from impeached President Dilma Rousseff in August, wants Brazil to negotiate more trade deals and take a larger role in global commerce. Brazilian business leaders complain that their country, Latin America's largest, has been held back by membership of Mercosur.
"One of the primary interests now is to obtain the formalization of this agreement between Mercosur and the European Union and flexibilize a little the rules of Mercosur to give some autonomy to the members," Temer said at a news conference with Macri.
Macri said free trade was a priority of his government, but that Mercosur members should negotiate trade deals as a bloc.
The deal with the European Union, which has been in the works for 16 years, could take another few years, Macri said, noting countries including Canada, South Korea, Japan and Egypt had expressed interest in trade agreements or more trade with Mercosur.
"This is the path we have to prepare," he said.
Resistance from some European countries led by France to opening up their farm sectors has made the EU-Mercosur agreement more difficult, and Macri urged France to be more flexible when he visited Europe in July.
Macri and Temer, ideological allies in countries that were previously governed by leftists, also agreed to work together to combat organized crime, drug trafficking and terrorism.