WASHINGTON – Israel became the first country outside South America to sign a free trade agreement with Mercosur, a common market among four Latin American countries.With hundreds of Israeli business leaders watching, Israeli President Shimon Peres and Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva announced that Brazil gave its final approval for the free trade agreement between Israel and Mercosur.Mercosur (Mercadu Comun del Sur) is a regional trade agreement among Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay. The bloc produces more than $3 trillion in gross domestic product and includes 270 million people.The agreement was spurred by Peres’ visit to Brazil last fall and was given final approval right before da Silva’s current visit to Israel. The agreement, which will go into effect in 30 days, is expected to increase Israel-Brazil trade relations by billions of dollars in sectors including agriculture, science, medicine and technology.Israel and Brazil formerly had a surplus trade agreement. In 2008,trade between the two countries totaled $1.6 billion, of which $1.2billion were exports from Israel, mostly chemicals and fertilizers usedin Brazilian agriculture. Venezuela, Colombia, Chile and Ecuador are in various stages ofintegration into Mercosur, with Venezuela on track for full admittance.