SANTIAGO, March 14 (Xinhua) -- The countries of the Pacific Alliance stood united here on Tuesday during a meeting aiming to chart the future of free-trade in the Asia-Pacific region.
The first day of the High-Level Dialogue on Integration Initiatives in the Asia-Pacific: Challenges and Opportunities on Tuesday saw the Pacific Alliance stand firm on free trade and open the door to the expansion of commercial agreements with countries in the Asia-Pacific region.
Speaking at a press conference, Chile's Foreign Minister Heraldo Munoz said that "it is an important moment on the international stage, with uncertainties present concerning the path to follow."
"The ministers of the Pacific Alliance reiterate their commitment to open free trade, to promote integration, and to reject protectionism, which affects jobs and prosperity," he added.
Munoz said the Pacific Alliance countries had decided in a ministerial meeting on Tuesday to focus on several important steps, including the increasing of internal trade within the bloc, lowering trade barriers, and stimulating business and investment through public-private partnerships.
He also said the bloc would identify "associated countries," a status which would represent countries with whom the Pacific Alliance wants to rapidly conclude free-trade agreements.
Established in 2012, the Pacific Alliance, which groups Peru, Mexico, Colombia and Chile, is a regional political and economic integration initiative in Latin America.
Munoz said the discussion on Wednesday, with delegations from around the Asia-Pacific region including China, would discuss various initiatives, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), the Free-Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP), promoted by APEC, and the Alliance's own proposal.
This message of loyalty to the values of free trade was widely echoed in the seaside resort of Vina del Mar.
Chile's deputy trade minister, Paulina Nazal, told the press that "we are interested above all for the Pacific Alliance to position itself as a mechanism of integration for the region and as an agent of this integration in the Asia-Pacific."
"China has free-trade agreements with Chile and a number of other countries participating in this summit. It is an observer country of the Pacific Alliance, and we enjoy a certain level of closeness with it," said Nazal.
"We believe that China's participation is important, and we want to hear what China has to say. We have noticed President Xi Jinping's active participation in the G20 and (at the World Economic Forum) in Davos. The Pacific Alliance has extended an invitation to China in that same perspective."