By Manuela Badawy
NEW YORK (Reuters) - The presidents of Colombia, Peru and Chile, and Mexico's minister of economy agreed on Wednesday to liberalize 92 percent of their countries' goods and services as part of the nascent regional economic integration bloc, The Pacific Alliance.
"We have just reached an agreement to liberalize trade between the four countries for 92 percent of the goods, and we are going to reach 99 percent in three to seven years," Chilean President Sebastian Pinera told business representatives attending the first Pacific Alliance Summit.
Mexico, Colombia, Peru and Chile are on the path of free trade and consolidation to strengthen their economies and create a more seamless and easier environment to do business.
The economic bloc, created less than three years ago, is the world's seventh-largest recipient of foreign direct investment, attracting $71 billion in 2012.
These four countries, major allies of the United States in Latin America, were disappointed by U.S. President Barack Obama's shortcoming in not mentioning the region in his speech to the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday.
"I was a bit sad yesterday that President Obama did not mention Latin America, not one single time," Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos told an audience attending The Pacific Alliance business summit.
"He mentioned the Middle East. He mentioned China. But not one single country in Latin America was mentioned in his speech. The strategy for the United States lies South of Rio Grande. Businessmen know where the strategic opportunities are," Santos added.
The economic bloc has investment potential for infrastructure projects that amount to almost $56 billion.
"We are advancing in many other areas such as infrastructure integration, customs integration, capital markets and energy," Pinera said.
One example of the integration has been consolidation of embassies and commercial offices abroad.
"We already have four embassies under one roof in Ghana," Mexican Economy Minister Idelfonso Guajardo said. He added that citizens of the economic bloc do not need tourist visas, so the number of Peruvian, Colombian and Chilean visitors to his country has increased.
Peruvian President Ollanta Humala said that although the Pacific Alliance is an economic bloc, the group created a scholarship fund so their citizens can study in any of the four countries. The alliance will also work to improve university accreditation.
The Pacific Alliance has 210 million people, the majority of them young, and their combined economies make 35 percent of Latin America gross domestic product.
"One country can go fast, but together can advance faster and better," Humala said.
(Reporting by Manuela Badawy; Editing by Stacey Joyce)