Pacific Alliance aims to boost economic ties with Asean (The Straits Times)

THE Pacific Alliance, a trade bloc comprising of four Latin American nations, is looking to boost trade and economic links with Asean.

The push for the Latin American bloc to forge deeper ties with the 10-member South-east Asian organisation was outlined at a panel discussion held at Suntec Singapore Convention and Exhibition Centre yesterday.

Launched in 2012, the Pacific Alliance comprises Columbia, Mexico, Peru and Chile, and aims to further integrate these economies to facilitate free flow of people, capital and services among member nations.

Mr Albert Chua, second permanent secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs here, said: “For Singapore, we have always advocated greater links between Asia and Latin America.”

He highlighted three areas for greater economic cooperation between the Pacific Alliance nations and Asean – energy and minerals, logistics, and infrastructure.

“These are areas where there is a clear growing demand and supply,” said Mr Chua.

While the Pacific Alliance may be young, it has already taken “tremendous strides” to lower trade barriers, said Ms Deborah Elms, executive director of the Asian Trade Centre, a body promoting Asian trade.

“The Pacific Alliance, from the beginning, has been moving more rapidly than other similar institutions,” she said.

One milestone is its elimination of tariffs for more than 90 per cent of goods traded within the bloc. More than 30 countries have signed up as observers to the Pacific Alliance.

Mr Manuel Talavera, Peru’s ambassador to Singapore, said: “We are a very homogeneous group. And that’s important. We have the same race, the same tradition, and we speak the same language (Spanish). All of these give us a great advantage.”

However, the economic infrastructure within the Pacific Alliance nations still needs to be strengthened.

Mr Rogelio Granguillhome, ambassador of Mexico to Singapore, said: “We are working very closely with the Singapore Government and the Mexican institutions to improve the framework to foster more trade and investment.”

Mr Chua said: “There are many economic opportunities which we can tap to enable our two regions to prosper together. With regional integration, companies from both sides can access wider markets.”