Mercosur signs Palestine free trade deal

Dec 21, 2011 12:00 AM

The Mercosur, a leading trading block of four South American nations, has signed a landmark free trade agreement with the Palestinian Authority (PA).
PA Foreign Affairs Minister Riyad al-Maliki and the foreign ministers of the member states of the trade group, Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay, signed the deal during the organization's presidential summit in Montevideo, Uruguay.

"We hope that (the Mercosur countries) can help us end the suffering of the Palestinian people," Maliki said at a ceremony broadcast by the office of Uruguay's President Jose Mujica.
The Mercosur countries along with Venezuela, which is currently in the process of joining the economic block, have all recognized the Palestinian state. The Palestinian Authority has free trade agreements with the European Union, Turkey, and Arab League countries.

According to officials, diplomats from Mercosur and the Occupied Palestinian territories have been negotiating the agreement for a year.
The block's combined market encompasses more than 250 mm people and accounts for more than three-quarters of the economic activity on the continent. Before this historic agreement, only one member of Mercosur, Argentina, had trade agreements with the Palestinians.

(Spanish: Mercado Común del Sur, Portuguese: Mercado Comum do Sul, English: Southern Common Market) was founded in 1991 by the Treaty of Asunción, which was later amended and updated by the 1994 Treaty of Ouro Preto.
Its purpose is to promote free trade and the fluid movement of goods, peoples, and currency.

Comprising Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay, Venezuela and Brazil, the Southern Common Market - MERCOSUR represents a total population of 270 mm individuals, living in an area larger than the total surface of the european continent, covering more than 13 mm sq km.
In 2006, the total Gross Domestic Products (GDP) of these five nations was approximately $ 2.42 tn.

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