German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer has said Berlin will fight to salvage a deal between the EU and the four-nation South American Mercosur trade bloc aimed at building the world's largest free-trade area.
Brazil was the last stop on Fischer's South American tour
Fischer told Brazilian and German business executives in South America's biggest business capital Sao Paolo that Germany and the EU had a "great interest" in seeing a pact in 2005.
"Mercosur is strategically important for Europe just as Europe is also important for the countries of Mercosur," Fischer said.
Fischer said he had told Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Foreign Minister Celso Amorim in talks Thursday "that the EU is still interested in an ambitious treaty."
German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer (left) speaks with Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva
"We will be ready to make compromises when we negotiate," he added. "But the (European) Commission must also be able to expect flexibility from our partners in Mercosur."
Meeting in early 2005
Talks stalled in Lisbon in October between the then European commissioners for farming and trade, Franz Fischler and Pascal Lamy, and the foreign ministers of Mercosur members Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay.
A ministerial meeting is now planned for early 2005 to reach an agreement that would create a free-trade zone affecting a population of more than 650 million and boost Mercosur's bargaining position with the United States in talks to create a Free Trade Area of the Americas.
The EU-Mercosur talks, which have dragged on for five years, have stumbled due to differences over agricultural trade barriers and the opening up of government procurement.
Mercosur, which also includes Bolivia and Chile as associate members, wants better access to European markets for its agricultural goods, especially beef.
The EU for its part wants a sweetened deal in the investment sector, government acquisitions,
telecommunications, marine shipping and banking.
German wants resolution in Doha talks
Fischer also stressed Germany's interest in a resolution to the Doha round of talks in the World Trade Organization.
"We must make decisive progress in opening worldwide markets by the ministerial conference in December 2005 in Hong Kong," he said. "Developing countries must become better integrated in global trade -- that is the only way they can become winners from globalization."
Brazil is a leading member of the so-called G20 group representing developing nations.
German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder visited a VW plant near Sao Paolo in 2002
It is Germany's biggest trade partner in Latin America while Germany is the third largest foreign investor in Brazil.
Fischer was wrapping up a week-long Americas tour that also took him to New York and Guatemala.
Apology to Jewish community
During his visit to Sao Paolo, Fischer also offered an emotional apology for the Holocaust Friday to Brazil's large Jewish community, many of whom are descendants of refugees who fled the Nazis.
At the end of a week-long Americas tour, Fischer fought back tears as he expressed Germany's shame over the murder of six million European Jews to Sao Paolo's Congregacao Israelita Paulista.
German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer during a visit to Israel in 2003.
"To those of you who forced to flee Germany, I bow before you," Fischer said in the single German sentence of a speech delivered in English. "In their racist insanity, the Nazis destroyed a blossoming century-old culture. Germany damaged a major part of its own soul."
Fischer assured the congregation of Germany's unwavering commitment to Israel's right to existence and self-defense, a central pillar of German postwar foreign policy, and urged a return to the so-called roapmap to Middle East peace.
"Our solidarity with Israel is unshaken," he said.
Nearly 70,000 Jews live in the Brazilian business capital, making it the second largest Jewish community in South America.