BUENOS AIRES The European Union must compromise if it wants to reach a trade accord with South American trade bloc Mercosur, German Chancellor Angela Merkel told a news conference on Thursday after a meeting with Argentine President Mauricio Macri.
Merkel said German agriculture had its own interests, but Germany supported Argentina's push to reach a trade deal with the EU quickly. She said "great progress" had already been made.
"Negotiating a free trade agreement is always a difficult matter. And Germany is not always an easy partner," Merkel told reporters.
"If there is a will to sign such an agreement ... then we must also make compromises."
Merkel said such compromises would have to be carefully negotiated and would likely be painful for both sides.
"There is certainly still work to do, but I am convinced that we should take on this task," she said.
Argentine Foreign Minister Susana Malcorra and EU ambassador to Brazil João Cravinho on Monday proposed a 2017 target for reaching a trade agreement.
Malcorra said the retreat of the United States from trade talks had opened a window for the European Union to become a strong player in multilateral, region-to-region accords.
Mercosur, which also includes Uruguay and Paraguay, began negotiations with the European Union in 1999, broke them off in 2004 and resumed talks again in 2010.
Macri told reporters that Mercosur was committed to a deal regardless of political turmoil in Brazil, and said he thought protectionism in Europe was a bigger hurdle to be overcome.
"Brazil is perfectly aligned with this idea, we share it with Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay. We see it as an opportunity to reach an agreement with the European Union after more than 20 years of these conversations," Macri said.
"In this sense I am very optimistic. I believe Chancellor Merkel will have more work with protectionist themes against the agricultural measures than we will have within Mercosur."
Asked about U.S. President Donald Trump's push for a more isolationist policy, Merkel said such an approach could bring short-term gains, but Argentina's example showed that it was not fruitful in the longer term.
Merkel, accompanied by a delegation of German business executives, welcomed Argentina's current more open policies and said Germany could be a good partner for Argentina as it sought to rebuild its infrastructure and modernise.
(Reporting by Andreas Rinke and Maximillian Heath; Writing by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Andrew Roche)