BRUSSELS - Argentina hopes to have an agreement on a free-trade deal between the European Union and the South American Mercosur bloc by year's end, its foreign minister said Thursday.
The European Union and Mercosur launched trade negotiations in 1999, but they have faced multiple setbacks, partly because of the leftist rule in Argentina that lasted more than a decade.
That government has now replaced by a more pro-business government since late 2015 that advocates trade.
"We hope that it will be by the end of the year, but it is not a deadline. It could be in the first quarter of the coming year," Argentine Foreign Minister Susana Malcorra told reporters in Brussels.
"We would like to at least make an announcement at the WTO meeting in Buenos Aires that things are sufficiently close," she added.
Trade ministers will convene in Buenos Aires in December for a meeting of the World Trade Organization.
Malcorra named issues related to rules of origin as well as food safety measures as important points that still needed to be discussed.
The EU and Mercosur exchanged market access offers in May 2016, including lists of imports that each side was prepared to liberalize.
The full members of the Mercosur trade bloc are Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and Venezuela, which was suspended in December.