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Israeli Prez Peres Must Carry Palestinian Answers to Brazil

Israeli Prez Peres Must Carry Palestinian Answers to Brazil

By Jose Roy

9 November 2009

Israeli President Shimon Peres should have answers to the Palestinian issues during his Latin American sojourn if he aspires to strengthen ties with them, particularly, in light of growing opposition in Brazil over the ratification of Mercosur-Israel FTA. A Parliamentary Commission on Foreign Relations and National Defence has recommended to the Brazilian parliament in September not to ratify Mercosur-Israel FTA until “Israel accepted the creation of the Palestinian state on the 1967 borders”.

Peres will visit Brazil and Argentina from 10 to 15 November accompanied by Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov and Communications Minister Moshe Kahlon, and about 40 business people aimed at boosting diplomatic and trade ties with Mercosur member states. The visit is also intended to position Israel above Iran among the South American nations as Iran is gaining political and commercial significance in the region. Israel sees Iran as the greatest neighbourhood threat since the latter, which nurses nuclear ambitions, is the most vociferous for the Palestinian cause from the Arab world.

Another key reason for Perez to visit the region is the dwindling export figures from Israel to the Latin American soil. Israeli exports to Brazil marked a low of $499mn for the first three quarters of the year with a dip of over 52 percent from the previous year. The Israel Export Institute estimates that for the year, exports to Brazil will be around $670mn, a slide of 43 percent. Similarly, exports to Argentina fell by 45 percent between January and September, reaching only $54m.

Israel’s foreign trade with the Mercosur member states is about $2bn in 2008. Imports was about $540mn, including $294mn from Brazil and $150mn from Argentina. Exports totalled around $1.36bn, with $1.17bn to Brazil (mostly fertilizers and agrochemical products) and $125mn to Argentina.

Brazil is the largest partner of the South American bloc that comprises of Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay besides it. The trade group represents the fifth largest economy in the world, and Brazil is the third largest trade partner to Israel.

Perez’ trip also emphasizes the fact that Israel is planning to offset the losses in the European markets due to boycotts, sinking demand from North America and increasing disconnect with the Arab world. Hence, the ratification of Mercosur-Israel FTA by Brazil means a lot to Israel which remains a major hurdle for the implementation of the deal, since signing it in 2007.