PANAMA CITY, Panama – Membership talks between Panama and the Latin American Integration Association (ALADI) are at an advanced stage, and Panama is expected to be confirmed as a full member of the continent’s largest economic union when ALADI ministers meet in Uruguay on 29 April.
ALADI is an intergovernmental organisation that has continued a process begun by the Latin American Free Trade Association begun in 1960. It encourages greater regional integration in order to achieve economic and social development, with the ultimate goal of establishing a common market.
ALADI Secretary General Hugo Saguier-Caballero told La Prensa that Panama’s admission to the economic union, which aims to form a Latin American common market, can be taken as a fait accompli. “The only thing needed now,” he said, “is the formal approval of the Council of Ministers, which will meet on 29 April … all the ALADI countries have given their written approval of Panama’s membership.”
According to La Estrella, Saguier-Caballero told Panama’s first vice-president and foreign minister, Samuel Lewis Navarro, that now that the country’s application had been unanimously approved, the first formal steps to complete the membership process were under way. Panama started negotiations in Dec. 2005, when it joined ALADI as an observer nation.
The Panama-America website reported that Bolivia’s vice-minister of foreign trade, Benjamin Blanco, had told Panamanian trade and industry officials that his country supported Panama’s entry, and stressed Panama’s importance as a commercial bridge between North and South America and its exceptional position between two oceans.
Once its membership has been formally approved, Panama will have to sign ALADI’s founding charter, the Montevideo Treaty, and a series of additional protocols that will allow it to become party to the existing regional agreements between the member states.
The general principle underlying ALADI, according to EFE, is political and economic pluralism. Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Cuba, Ecuador, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay, and Venezuela are full members. El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, the Dominican Republic, Spain, Portugal, the Inter-American Development Bank, the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, and the Organisation of American States are observers.