BUENOS AIRES: Germany and Argentina voiced hopes on Thursday (Friday in Manila) for a free trade agreement between the European Union and South America as German Chancellor Angela Merkel visited Buenos Aires. In talks with Argentine President Mauricio Macri, Merkel discussed bilateral commerce and efforts to strike a deal with the Mercosur grouping of South American countries. Although disagreements between Mercosur countries had delayed the talks, Macri insisted Argentina, Brazil and other members now agree on the need for a deal. The prospect of a trade partnership between the two blocs raises potentially tricky questions over competition in agricultural markets. “I am optimistic,” Macri told the news conference. “I think Chancellor Merkel is going to have more work with the protectionists in the EU agricultural sector than we will in Mercosur.” Macri has rolled back the policies of his leftist predecessors and opened up Argentina to foreign trade and finance since taking office in December 2015. His moves have been praised by foreign allies but slammed by critics at home who say fiscal cuts are worsening hardship for working families.