BUENOS AIRES — Argentina said on Tuesday it was seeking closer ties with a Latin American trading bloc comprised of Chile, Colombia, Peru and Mexico, a further sign of President Mauricio Macri’s determination to move away from protectionist policies.
Macri, who won the presidency late last year on a pro-business platform, has overturned capital controls and cut export taxes, and indicated a keen desire to build trade relationships with countries like the United States and Britain.
He has asked that Argentina be accepted as an ‘observer’ of the Pacific Alliance and will travel to southern Chile next month for the bloc’s annual summit, said a spokesman for Argentina’s foreign ministry.
“That is the first step,” the spokesman said. “Afterwards we will have to see what happens.”
The inclusion of Argentina in the Pacific Alliance, even as an observer, would appear to be a good fit, as its members have generally been strong advocates of free trade.
“The president has a clear objective to start working hard on a real alliance with the Pacific countries,” Foreign Minister Susana Malcorra told La Nacion, a local daily newspaper.
Argentina is already a member of the Mercosur trade bloc with Brazil, Venezuela, Uruguay and Paraguay. That group has been led in recent years by leftists, including former Argentine president Cristina Fernández, and riven with internal tensions.
The foreign ministry spokesman, however, said Macri’s move “in no way” implied he was seeking to distance Argentina from Mercosur.
But Macri’s election and a political change in Brazil, where pro-business centrist Michel Temer has taken over from suspended leftist President Dilma Rousseff, signal an opportunity to move forward with intra-regional trade, analysts say.
“Political winds have shifted in Mercosur,” said Jason Marczak, a Latin America analyst at the Washington-based Atlantic Council.
“Pacific Alliance leaders will meet for the next presidential summit with the hope of greater collaboration between the two blocs increasingly becoming a real possibility.”