RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil (JTA) — A pioneering free-trade agreement between Israel and a bloc of South American countries began operating.
Israel is the first country outside South America to sign such an agreement with Mercosur, a regional bloc that includes Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay and produces more than $3 trillion in combined GDP. With the agreement, which came into effect Sunday, bilateral trade is expected to increase threefold in the next five years.
The final approval for the agreement was announced by Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva on March 15 during his visit to Israel.
“We hope to advance economic and business ties between Israel and Brazil as trade has increased significantly between our two countries in the past few years,” Lula said in Jerusalem.
Brazil is Israel’s largest trade partner in Latin America. The new agreement is expected to provide a special boost to trade in agriculture, education, science, medicine, and space.