Starting in July, the Pacific Alliance trade bloc will begin admitting associate member nations, according to Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos.
Santos, who is currently serving in the rotating leadership role of president protempore of the Latin American trade alliance, made the announcement earlier this month following a meeting at the Summit of the Americas that included the four heads of state of the association’s member nations — Colombia, Mexico, Chile, and Peru — as well as Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Photo: Heads of state met in Lima to discuss the final steps for Canada and others to become full associate members of the Pacific Alliance, including (left to right) Martín Vizcarra of Peru, Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia, Sebastián Piñera of Chile, Enrique Peña Nieto of Mexico, and Justin Trudeau of Canada. (Photo credit: Presidencia de la República)
Following the meeting with Trudeau, Santos stressed that the remaining technical hurdles should be cleared before the upcoming Pacific Alliance meeting in July that could mark the final step. “The associated countries, headed by Canada, would at that moment begin their incorporation into the Pacific Alliance,” said Santos.
Canada is one of several countries that has been working through the negotiating process to become an associate member, a goal shared by Australia, Singapore, and New Zealand. All four participated in a third round of negotiations in March in Chile, discussing various elements of trade such as technical barriers, rules of origin, regulations, labor concerns, and environmental issues, according to a statement from the office of the Pacific Alliance.
Combined, Colombia totaled $516 million USD in exports to these four countries in 2016, according to the Pacific Alliance. In the same year, Mexico, which is already part of the North American Free-Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with Canada, had by far the largest volume with $12.2 billion USD. Chile and Peru realized $1.4 billion USD and $2.0 billion USD, respectively.
South Korea has also expressed interest in becoming an associate member, something that would facilitate more inter-regional trade with Asia and further expand “Pacific” definition of the seven-year-old trade bloc. Santos noted that the group’s leadership has already decided to incorporate South Korea, which he said has “strongly requested” to join the group, into future negotiations that would lead to an associate membership.
In addition to Santos and Trudeau, the group leadership that met in Lima during the Summit of the Americas included President Enrique Peña Nieto of Mexico, President Sebastián Piñera of Chile, and President Martín Vizcarra of Peru.
“The Pacific Alliance is a good free trade agreement that has had tremendous success and that represents great opportunities for the four countries,” said Trudeau. “Trade is advancing and expanding.”
Steven Ciobo, the minister of trade, tourism, and investment for Australia, reflected a similar sentiment in March after the last round of negotiations and stressed the potential that drafting a free-trade agreement (FTA) with the Pacific Alliance presents for his country, as reported by the International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development.
“The Pacific Alliance trading bloc remains an under-explored market for Australian exporters,” said Ciobo, “and Australia’s competitive access to the economies in this bloc has been limited by high tariffs and barriers … A comprehensive and high-quality FTA will open the door to new and rapidly growing markets for Australian businesses, putting exporters on the same footing with the United States, the European Union, and Canada, who all have FTAs that give them preferential access.”