AFP - Chile, Peru, Colombia and Mexico signed an accord Wednesday creating the Pacific Alliance to more deeply integrate their economies, and develop new trade links with the Asia-Pacific region.
"From the heights of Paranal, in the most arid desert in the world and under the clearest of skies, we have signed a pact officially giving birth to the Pacific Alliance," Chilean President Sebastian Pinera said.
He was speaking at a presidential summit near the giant telescopes of the Atacama desert to launch the new alliance, attended also by Mexico's Felipe Calderon, Peru's Ollanta Humala and Colombia's Juan Manuel Santos, as well as the presidents of Costa Rica and Panama, and others as observers.
The creation of the Latin American bloc -- with a total of 215 million consumers and a combined gross domestic product of more than $2 trillion -- was proposed last year in Lima.
"In very little time, we have succeeded in moving forward rapidly," said host Pinera, explaining that it would bring about a "deep integration" that will go "far beyond free trade and reach out to the Asia-Pacific region."
"The Pacific Alliance's economic potential is significant," said Mexico's Calderon, noting that the new alliance groups together Latin America's fastest growing economies such as Peru and Chile.
Colombia's Santos called it the "most important integration process in Latin America."
"There are no incompatibilities or exclusion vis-a-vis other integration efforts. We are against nobody but rather in favor of even greater integration," he said.
Santos was echoed by Peru's Humala who insisted that the new alliance "doesn't look to displace other groupings," such as the Andean Community, or the Union of South American Nations.
Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla, who attended as an observer alongside Canada's foreign minister and Spain's King Juan Carlos, formally asked to join the alliance.