Israel joins Costa Rica as Pacific Alliance observer state

With additional editing by Inside Costa Rica staff.

February 11, 2014 (AFP) – Israel has been accepted as an observer state to the Pacific Alliance, a trade bloc grouping four of Latin America’s fastest-growing economies, officials said Tuesday.

The move, which was approved late Monday at a Pacific Alliance summit in Cartagena, will see Israel joining Costa Rica, the United States, Canada and other countries as an observer state to the body, which currently includes Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Peru, while Costa Rica awaits full membership to the bloc after President Laura Chinchilla signed a key “roadmap” at the summit on Monday.

Israel’s acceptance came about after talks between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the leaders of each member state as part of his policy of “developing new markets for the Israeli economy,” a statement from his office said.

“This is an additional step in ensuring the continued growth of the Israeli economy. We are diversifying the State of Israel’s international markets,” Netanyahu said.

The Israeli leader is to travel to Colombia and Mexico “in the coming months” in a bid to promote cooperation with Alliance member states, his office said, without giving dates.

The Pacific Alliance countries have a combined gross national product (GNP) of over $2 trillion, which accounts for 36 percent of the entire GNP of Latin America, the statement said.

Collectively, the four countries account for 50 percent of Latin America’s trade and 26 percent of its foreign investments, totalling over $70 billion.

Israel currently exports an annual $864 million worth of goods to the Pacific Alliance, representing one percent of its total exports.

Last month, Netanyahu met Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto in Davos to discuss Israel’s accession, and he also recently spoke with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and Chilean President Sebastian Pinera, who both confirmed their support for such a move.

Next week, Peru’s President Ollanta Humala will arrive in Israel for a three-day state visit.

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