Mercosur, Egypt to sign free-trade deal

Egypt trade minister says negotiations all but finished

* Brazil exports to Egypt at $1.53 billion in 2009

* Egypt is top wheat importer, Argentina large exporter (Recasts, adds quote, background)

BUENOS AIRES, July 30 (Reuters) – Mercosur, a South American trade bloc that groups big agricultural exporters Brazil and Argentina, will sign a free-trade deal with Egypt next week, the Egyptian trade minister said on Friday.

Egypt is the world’s biggest importer of wheat and Argentina is among the leading global exporters of the grain, although it did not export wheat to the North African country last year, according to official data.

Mercosur’s other full members are Uruguay and Paraguay, large exporters of beef and soybeans, respectively.

“We’ve analyzed and covered about 99 percent of what we were planning to cover, therefore I’m sure we’ll be able to go through what’s left in the next few days,” Egyptian Trade Minister Rachid Mohamed Rachid told reporters in Argentina, where a Mercosur summit will be held early next week.

Egypt is an important buyer of corn from Argentina, the world’s No. 2 exporter of the grain.

Egypt’s exports to Brazil, the largest economy in Latin America, totaled $87.7 million in 2009, while its imports came to $1.53 billion, the Egyptian Trade Ministry reported.

Trade between the two countries covers the industrial, transportation, textiles, agriculture and fishing sectors. (Reporting by Karina Grazina; writing by Eduardo Garcia; editing by Todd Eastham)

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