Mercosur and Pacific Alliance foreign affairs ministers met this weekend in Colombia for a first round of talks on integration mechanisms and the potential for specific alliances. The idea of the meeting was first launched by Chile with the purpose of a 'convergence' of interests and a possible future integration.
It was a very positive meeting; the conclusion is that we will continue to talk, both sides are very much interested, said Argentina's foreign minister Hector Timerman, who spoke for Mercosur since Argentina holds the rotating chair of the group.
The Pacific Alliance invited us to listen the proposals they have as to how to continue working and at the same time Mercosur gave a state of situation, added Tirmerman following the Cartagena de Indias meeting.
We support as very positive all dialogue mechanisms in the region and we are most pleased and satisfied with the meeting, concluded Timerman.
We coincide with the significance that this dialogue must continue, that this dialogue acknowledges the willingness from both sides and the objectives we share said the Mexican foreign minister Jose Antonio Meade. Mexico currently holds the Pacific Alliance rotating chair.
The Pacific Alliance is made up of Chile, Peru, Colombia and Mexico and was only started three years ago and seems to have advanced far more than Mercosur given its open market policies, promoting foreign investment and the private sector.
Mercosur on the other hand was launched in 1991, includes Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and Venezuela, but has a more protectionist focus regarding foreign trade and opening markets, and even when it favors foreign investment conditions vary from country to country.
Chile's foreign minister Heraldo Muñoz said that Cartagena will be followed by another meeting in Chile on 24 November to discuss the alternatives for different relation scenarios between Mercosur and the Pacific Alliance. Chile is also an associate member of Mercosur, and never applied for full membership since it has a more flexible and pragmatic tariffs policy.
It has been a good meeting, a good background to keep advancing in Santiago. There is a clear willingness to explore those paths of greater convergence, said Muñoz, who added that the event in Chile will be 'more open', with the participation besides ministers and other government officials, business people and academics.
The meeting in Cartagena was hosted by Colombia's foreign minister Maria Angela Holguin, and Trade, industry and tourism minister Cecilia Alvarez and counted with the attendance of the foreign ministers from the two groups, plus the Bolivian foreign trade minister.
Free circulation of goods, people and capital, looking at the Asia-Pacific basin is the Alliance's objective, but it is not a political harmonizing mechanism, despite the fact it has increased its influence to academic and cultural cooperation said Minister Holguín.
In three years the Pacific Alliance has already 32 observers from the five continents including the US, China, Japan, Germany, UK, France, Spain, Uruguay and Paraguay, with Panama on the threshold of joining as full member. With 214 million people, the Alliance represents 37% of Latin America and the Caribbean GDP, 50% of overall trade and attracts 45% of direct foreign investment.