Panama signed a free trade agreement with Colombia on Friday, making a step forward to join the Pacific Alliance.

The agreement was signed by Panama’s Minister of Trade and Industry Ricardo Quijano and Colombia’s Minister of Trade, Industry and Tourism Sergio Diaz Granados.

Diaz Granados said the free trade agreement, the negotiation process of which was launched in 2009, represented an important achievement as the two nations have an annual trade of 2.8 billion U.S. dollars.

The agreement will provide clear rules for their trade exchanges and help improve the business environment, Diaz Granados said.

The minister added that the agreement paves the way for Panama to become a full member of the Pacific Alliance, a Latin American mechanism for economic and free trade integration grouping Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Peru.

In the coming weeks, Colombia will present the agreement to the Congress for ratification, said the minister.

The signing of the free trade pact between the two neighbor countries was also hailed by the Panamanian side as an important achievement.

Quijano said the agreement will allow a deeper economic integration between the two countries, and it represented a major step for Panama to become a full member of the Pacific Alliance.

Panama is now in negotiations with Mexico in a bid to reach another free trade agreement, according to Quijano.