President Sebastián Piñera of Chile yesterday set an ambitious target of 90% of goods to be tariff free between the countries of the Pacific Alliance, which includes Colombia, by early 2013.

The organization´s founding members are Colombia, Peru, Mexico and Chile but it was also revealed this weekend Costa Rica and Panama are to join the club.

Speaking at the Ibero-Latin American Conference in the Spanish city of Cadiz where the Alliance´s member heads of state were congregated, President Piñera stated:

“We have taken steps to create wider and deeper integration for this area, which seeks not only the free movement of goods but also of services, investment and people. It also seeks coordination between our countries on policies towards the rest of the world, especially with Asia-Pacific.”

President Piñera also wished Colombian President Juan Manual Santos, well as next year he assumes the alliance´s rotating leadership.

The Santos Government has placed economic cooperation with both its neighbours and its key export markets at the heart of its political programme. Successes are notable with the free trade agreement between Colombia and the US finally implemented earlier this year, and the news this week that the free trade agreement with the European Union is to be signed in December.

The Pacific Alliance allows Colombia to broaden its horizons by promoting trade agreements with countries in the currently prospering Asia-Pacific region.

The Pacific Alliance is just one of the patchwork of trading blocs and organizations aimed at regional integration in Latin America, which include MERCOSUR, and CAN. The existence of multitudinous groups reflects the shifting alliances and often fractious relations between the countries in the region.

Established formally in July of this year, the first aim of the Pacific Alliance was to drop visa requirements for citizens of the member states travelling among the countries of the block for short periods of time, an aim fulfilled earlier this month.

However, doubts remain about whether the group will be able to fulfil its goals of deeper integration without formal institutions, legal structures and a defined timetable. What is more, with some of the member states having overlapping memberships of the CAN, the relationship between the two blocs could complicate matters further.

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