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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Free Trade Zone Plan

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil -- The 15-nation European Union and five South American countries have agreed to form a new free trade zone they hope will strengthen economic and political ties between the two continents.

For the Latin American and Caribbean nations, negotiations with the Europeans also mean they may be able to counterbalance U.S. influence in the region and be in a stronger position in concurrent negotiations for a hemispheric free trade zone.

The decision, made Monday at a European-Latin America summit, launches what will be several years of trans-Atlantic negotiations.