Photo via Factores Del Poder

The Pacific Alliance, a trade bloc comprising Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Peru as permanent members as well as a number of other “observer countries” such as the US, has approved Argentina’s request to join the Alliance as an observer. President Mauricio Macri is set to go to the next summit, which will be held in Chile on July 1st.

In yesterday’s 15th Meeting of the Alliance Ministers’ Council, Chilean Foreign Minister Heraldo Muñoz stated that Argentina’s bid to become an observer was approved “because Argentina has a special interest in strengthening ties with the Pacific Alliance and presented a request to be an observer.” In layman’s terms: Macri wanted to, so we said sure.

Muñoz’s heartening words aside, Macri had in fact received invitations from Peruvian and Chilean Presidents Ollanta Humala and Michelle Bachelet, respectively, to participate.

The Alliance currently includes 42 observer countries, which are allowed to take part in seminars and trade forums in order to gain a better understanding of the Alliance. The US joined as an observer back in 2013.

Argentina is currently a member of economic trade bloc Mercosur (comprised of Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay and Venezuela). Macri explicitly wants the Pacific Alliance and Mercosur to cooperate and seeks to unite them in the long term in order to create a joint economic trade agreement strategy.

The full member countries of the Pacific Alliance. Photo via Nesta.
The full member countries of the Pacific Alliance. Photo via Nesta.

This step towards closer ties with the Pacific Alliance is a 180 pivot from former President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s policy, as she sought to avoid any agreements with it because it was perceived as center-right focused and too closely aligned with the US.

The Pacific Alliance was formed in 2011 to promote the free circulation of goods, services, capital and people, with particular focus on the Asia-Pacific region. One of the requirements to become a full member is that countries have free trade agreements with all other members. In 2014, the bloc eliminated 92 percent of tariffs between member countries and is planning on phasing out the remaining 8 percent of tariffs over a seven-year period.