GUATEMALA CITY (AP) -- Chile joined a free trade bloc with Central
American countries and the Dominican Republic on Monday in an expansion
of the free trade zone.
Details of the treaty are to be disclosed in the coming weeks, but it deals
with agricultural exports, as well as sanitation, intellectual property and other
"The region must present a common front. We cannot present individual
proposals to important countries such as Chile," said Guatemalan President
Alvaro Arzu, who was hosting a summit of Central American leaders.
Trade between Chile and Central America is about $150 million a year,
most of that in exports from Chile. But regional leaders said the agreement
had symbolic importance.
"This is not just a commercial treaty, it is about a political, educational
cultural vision," Chilean President Eduardo Frei said.
The Central American nations involved in the treaty include Guatemala,
Salvador, Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Honduras. Acting as observers were
Belize, the Dominican Republic and Panama.
Summit leaders also invited Chile to join the Central Bank for Central
American Integration, which focuses on investment in infrastructure and
production in the region. Taiwan and Venezuela already are associate
Praising the agreement, Costa Rican President Miguel Angel Rodriguez said:
"Who would have thought a decade ago, with inefficient production and
governments with undisciplined monetary and fiscal policies, that a decade
later Central America would be an attractive and reliable region for
Guatemalan Foreign Minister Eduardo Stein said the economies of Central
America and Chile are compatible in part because they have differing
Central America also is negotiating a free trade agreement with Mexico,
talks have been slowed by differences over agricultural products.
Copyright 1999 The Associated Press.