By Marco Aquino
LIMA (Reuters) – Ecuador will likely become a member of the market-friendly regional trade bloc the Pacific Alliance next year, the president of Peru said on Saturday, the latest sign of the South American country’s rightward shift under President Lenin Moreno.
The Pacific Alliance was formed by Peru, Mexico, Colombia and Chile in 2012 to promote free trade and strengthen ties in the Asia-Pacific region, drawing a contrast with Latin American groups such as ALBA and CELAC which were led by the region’s leftist presidents.
Ecuador’s former president Rafael Correa, a leftist who governed from 2007-2017, had said Ecuador would not join the Pacific Alliance as long as he was in office.
But Moreno, a former political ally of Correa, asked the bloc if Ecuador could join after he replaced Correa in 2017. That was one of several moves to reverse his predecessor’s positions, which also include starting trade talks with the United States, signing a $4.2 billion deal with the International Monetary Fund and kicking Julian Assange, the co-founder of WikiLeaks, out of Ecuador’s London Embassy.
“We welcome Ecuador and have committed to accelerating procedures for its incorporation as a full member, hoping that in the course of 2019 Ecuador will be a member of the Pacific Alliance,” Peruvian President Martin Vizcarra told journalists at the Pacific Alliance summit in Lima, the capital.
Chilean President Sebastian Pinera welcomed the presence of Moreno at the summit as a special guest and said Ecuador “should have always been a part of the Alliance.”
“For well-known reasons it hasn’t been. But today the conditions are right,” Pinera added.
Pacific Alliance members currently account for 37% of gross domestic product in Latin American and the Caribbean, thanks largely to Mexico, the second biggest economy in Latin America.
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador did not attend the summit in Peru, sending his Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard instead.
(Reporting by Marco Aquino; Writing by Mitra Taj; Editing by Leslie Adler)