Chile president says Argentina welcome as Pacific Alliance member

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BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - Chile would welcome Argentina as a member of the Pacific Alliance trade bloc, a group of four historically market-friendly Latin American countries, Chilean President Michelle Bachelet said during a state visit to Argentina on Friday.

In June, Argentina was granted observer status to the group, which includes Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Peru. Argentine President Mauricio Macri, who came to power a year ago pledging to open Argentina’s economy after more than a decade of populist and protectionist policies, has sought closer ties to the bloc.

“We are very interested in seeing Argentina become part of the Pacific Alliance,” Bachelet said at a news conference in Buenos Aires after meeting with Macri.

Earlier this year, Chile ratified an agreement reducing tariffs to 0 percent on 92 percent of commerce between the four countries in the Pacific Alliance.

Argentina is a founding member of Mercosur, another regional trade bloc whose other members are Brazil, Bolivia, Paraguay and Uruguay.

Venezuela, which has lost allies in the region as several countries moved to the right, was suspended from Mercusur earlier this month on human rights and trade concerns.

Reporting by Luc Cohen and Maximiliano Rizzi; Editing by Jonathan Oatis