SANTIAGO – Chilean President Sebastian Piñera and Ecuadorian counterpart Lenin Moreno agreed on Thursday to begin negotiations on a bilateral trade agreement.
The two heads of state co-chaired the 5th Binational Ministerial Council at La Moneda palace, which concluded with the signing of the Santiago Declaration, consisting of 21 accords and 100 commitments across a wide range of issues.
Since January 2010, trade and investment relations between Ecuador and Chile have been governed by the Economic Complementarity Accord, but the leaders said that the two governments are ready to replace that pact with a free-trade deal.
“That is an important achievement, where we hope to incorporate the accords in the matter of avoiding double-taxation, protection of investments, and to have a body that regulates this greater integration and collaboration,” Piñera said after the signing ceremony.
He also pledged to lobby for the inclusion of Ecuador in the Pacific Alliance, a bloc now comprising Chile, Colombia, Peru and Mexico whose stated mission is to promote freedom of movement for people, goods, investment and services.
Piñera noted that the accords finalized Thursday include deals paving the way for Chile’s state-owned copper and oil companies – Codelco and ENAP, respectively – to operate in Ecuador.
At the political level, Piñera said that Chile and Ecuador are making progress in developing an infrastructure for Prosur, the regional grouping that was launched here on March 22 with the participation of Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Guyana, Paraguay and Peru.
The new organization is meant to replace the Union of South American Nations, which effectively collapsed in the course of last year with the withdrawal of Argentina, Brazil and Colombia over sharp differences with Venezuela.
“Prosur is the only forum for exchange of ideas, for collaboration, for dialogue, for accords ... that we have among the democratic countries of South America,” the Chilean president said.
Moreno, in his remarks, said the Ecuadorian and Chilean governments were on the same wavelength.
“In these conditions, it’s not difficult to reach agreement,” he said.