Mercosur, the South American trade bloc, signed a free-trade pact with Israel.
The agreement, signed Tuesday during the organization’s two-day summit in Uruguay, is the bloc’s first trade pact with a country outside of Latin America.
The new partnership, which follows two years of negotiations, marks Israel’s first trade agreement in Latin America. Under the new plan, trade is expected to double between Israel and the Mercosur member nations: Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay. Associate members of Mercosur include Chile, Bolivia, Venezuela, Colombia and Peru.
Trade between Israel and Mercosur member countries totaled $1.1 billion in 2006.
The agreement comes at a time of growing Iranian influence in the region, backed by Venezuela. “Free trade sustains democracies, and strengthens relations between these countries, some of which have had strong ties with Israel since its creation,” said B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin, who applauded Mercosur on the pact. “This further cements ties between these countries.”