Four-way Latin America bloc strikes deal to remove all trade tariffs

PLAYA DEL CARMEN, Mexico Mon Aug 26, 2013 9:50pm EDT

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PLAYA DEL CARMEN, Mexico (Reuters) - Mexico, Colombia, Peru and Chile said on Monday they had wrapped up negotiations to remove all trade tariffs between them, cementing a bloc that the four hope will encourage free trade between Latin America and the rest of the world.

Ministers from the four member states of the Pacific Alliance group announced the agreement, which is due to be ratified later this year, at a joint news conference in Playa del Carmen, a beach resort on Mexico's Caribbean coast.

"You're looking at a deal ... which means that between all our countries, there will be no barriers on any of our goods and services and we'll be able to combine the potential of these nations," said Chile's Foreign Minister Alfredo Moreno.

Duties would be eliminated for 92 percent of goods and services as soon as the agreement became effective, with most of the remainder disappearing over the next few years, they said.

A longer-term solution was needed for only a few, mostly agricultural, products that account for roughly 1.4 percent of trade. This meant some tariffs would not be lifted until about 2030, said Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo.

Details of which items had been the sticking point would be revealed in due course, Guajardo added.

The group plans to present the outcome of the talks at an investor forum in New York on September 25 during the United Nations General Assembly. After that the presidents of the member states will set a date to sign the accord in the year's fourth quarter, said Colombia's Minister for Commerce, Sergio Diaz Granados.

He said talks would be held in coming weeks to formalize Costa Rica's entry into the Pacific Alliance and he expected Panama to become the sixth member afterward.

Favoring stronger trade with fast-growing Asian economies, the nations of the Pacific Alliance are seeking to push free market policies to spur growth, attract more foreign investment and integrate their capital markets and energy networks.

The four nations have a combined population of more than 210 million people and the group's total gross domestic product accounts for more than a third of Latin America's overall GDP.

(Reporting by Dave Graham; editing by Christopher Wilson)

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