South American alliance seeks closer Thai, Asean trade ties

Economy October 19, 2013 00:00

By Nophakhun Limsamarnphun


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THE Pacific Alliance, a new grouping of four Latin American countries, is looking forward to working with Thailand and other Asean nations on economic and trade cooperation.

The alliance, which consists of Mexico, Colombia, Peru and Chile, is considering a free-trade agreement with Thailand and Asean as it evolves into a common market in South America.

Andelfo Garcia, Colombia’s ambassador to Thailand, said: "The Pacific Alliance is an ambitious initiative aimed at deepening the integration of the four South American countries involving the free movement of not just people, but capital, goods and services as well as investment.

"The Pacific Alliance also looks towards Asean countries, as we want the Pacific Ocean to be not a gap but a bridge between countries and economics across the two regions.

"Bilaterally, trade between Thailand and Colombia has increased six times from [US]$60 million to $360 million [about Bt11 billion] per year. It’s still very small compared with Mexico, Peru or Chile. We also want to increase people-to-people contacts as well as tourism."

Felix Denegri, Peru’s ambassador to Thailand, said: "The Pacific Alliance was founded about 30 months ago with the Lima Declaration with the key objective of promoting economic growth and improving people’s lives.

"We’re very much in the dynamics of the globalised world. We’re not ideological, as we focus on economic cooperation and commerce. We’re all democracies supporting the protection of human rights and the rule of law etc.

"Our president visited Thailand on the way to the recent Apec [Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation] Summit in Bali, Indonesia. Thailand is an important gateway to Asean while Peru is at the centre of South America.

"We want more education and student exchanges because we have found that we don’t know each other well enough. In a globalised world, we need a lot of networks to diversify the economy and ties when one goes down, the others may be go up.

"The Pacific Alliance has invited Thailand to be an observer. Now, China, Japan, the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Korea etc are observers.

"Now, Peru has an early harvest free-trade agreement with Thailand and we’re negotiating a more comprehensive FTA."

Javier Becker, Chile’s ambassador to Thailand, said: "As a group of four countries with 200 million people, we represent the world’s ninth-largest economy. We also account for 50 per cent of Latin America’s exports to the rest of world. In terms of GDP, we’re one-third of Latin America’s combined GDP.

"The Pacific Alliance wants to take advantage of the Asean Economic Community, which will be effective in 2015. Countries on both sides of the Pacific should be able to join. Thailand and other Asean countries should be able to export goods more easily to South America. For us, we expect to do the same to Asia. We’re talking about two big regional markets, which are in the process of integration."

Jorge Chen, Mexico’s ambassador to Thailand, said: "The Pacific Alliance is something of an evolution of the global economy as some members have long-time relations with Asia dating back more than 400 years.

"Economically, the grouping wants to find new ways to join the global chain of economic values so we approach different regional groupings. To be important actors in this new world, we should focus on our strengths and similarities so we can face the new challenges.

"Mexico, which has the biggest economy in the Pacific Alliance, wants to play a role that promotes member countries to work together. We hope to enhance our economic relations with Thailand. Thai-Mexico bilateral trade is now about $4.2 billion, growing at a rate close to 20 per cent per annum."