Argentina joins regional free trade pact with Israel


BUENOS AIRES (JTA) — Argentina became the last of five South American countries to sign onto a regional free trade agreement with Israel.

With the Sept. 9 agreement, Argentina joins MERCOSUR, the political and economic consortium that already had Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay.

In Argentina, even before the agreement was signed, there were some initial steps.

“This is a psychological effect,” Israel’s ambassador to Argentina, Daniel Gazit, told JTA. “Last year Israeli exports grew almost 20 percent and Argentinian exports 40 percent."

Brazil, the largest regional economy, expects to triple its trade with Israel by 2015. Its $1.35 billion in trade last year increased from $922 million in 2009.

“In 2011 the target of $1.8 billion is becoming viable," Jayme Blay, president of the Brazil-Israel Chamber of Commerce, told JTA. "A new level of $3 billion is being considered now due to the big events that will take place in Brazil — the World Soccer Cup [in 2014] and the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro [in 2016]. These events will necessarily be strong attractions for an increase in bilateral trade.”

Latin America is a developing region economically, with a healthy recent performance and good outlook. MERCOSUR has agreed to support a newly established Palestinian state.

Growing trade with countries that recognize the Palestinian state has a clear expression in Latin America.

"This is the situation we have in the Israeli diplomacy in the future," Uzi Rabi, director of The Moshe Dayan Center of Tel Aviv University, told JTA. "It is great to increase the exchange. It is good to tell the country’s friends that a vote for a Palestinian state means they have to look how this state behaves.”

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