US, Brazil begin trade talks to cement bilateral ties

Brazilian economy minister on Wednesday announced the start of negotiations for a trade agreement with Washington as his U.S. counterpart is currently on a visit to the South American nation.

Despite warm relations between the U.S. President Donald Trump and Brazilian leader Jair Bolsonaro -- which was enhanced by the designation of Brazil as one of the non-NATO allies of the U.S. by Trump's order on Wednesday -- the two American giants are competitors in several sectors, including the agriculture.

Brazilian Economy Minister Paulo Guedes said his meeting with the U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross was productive and that the American delegation showed eagerness for a trade deal.

This came only weeks after the South American trade bloc Mercosur, officially known as the Southern Common Market, reached a free trade agreement with the EU late June.

Mercosur-EU deal is in the ratification process by the national governments and is expected to get effective in three years.

During his flight back to Brazil from the G20 summit in Japan late June, Bolsonaro told reporters that Brazil wants to be the first country to ratify the trade deal with EU.

Other three members of Mercosur are Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay.

However, in an interesting turn of events, Bolsonaro on Monday didn't show up for a meeting with French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian to have a haircut.

At the barbershop, he live-streamed a 12-minute video on Facebook at the same time he was supposed to meet the French minister.

Brazilian Foreign Ministry later said there were scheduling problems.

Bolsonaro has recently expressed his disappointment after France criticized the environmental policies of the Brazilian government.

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