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Pacific Alliance grants Israel observer status
By NIV ELIS
11/02/2014
South American trade alliance and Israel take 'first step' towards expanding trade relations.
 
Israel late Monday night was accepted as an observer nation to the Pacific Alliance, a Latin American trade bloc comprised of  Chile, Colombia, Mexico, and Peru.

Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu announced that he would be visiting Mexico and Colombia, countries with which Israel already had free trade agreement.

While observer status only allows Israel to participate in the Alliance's staff work and attend its conferences, the move is the first step in expanding relations with a group whose combined economies amount to some $2 trillion, outpacing India's.

"In today's world, where there is a recession in Europe and there was in the US, Asia is not growing as expected or hoped, Latin America is a very attractive market for Israeli technology and goods," Jonathan Peled, Director of the Foreign Ministry's Economic department told The Jerusalem Post.

Israel sends a mere 1% of its exports to the group, meaning there is substantial room for growth.

While increasing economic ties to a prosperous region is in itself a goal, closer economic ties also translate to politics. Though the talks for observer status began over a year ago, before the hype developed around European boycotts, Israel has increasingly made efforts to develop ties with non-European markets in Asia, Africa, and now Latin America.

Netanyahu on Tuesday said the Alliance's decision was "diversifying the State of Israel's international markets."

It may also be an effort to counter increasing Iranian influence in South America.

"It's no secret that countries like Mexico and Colombia are more oriented toward the US in terms of policy toward places like Iran, so they are more naturally aligned with us," Peled said.
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