(FILES) This handout picture released by the Mexican Presidency shows Mexico’s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador speaking during a press conference in Mexico City on March 28, 2023. (Photo by Mexican Presidency / AFP)

MEXICO CITY — The leaders of 11 Latin American nations, including its two biggest economies, Brazil and Mexico, announced on Wednesday a plan to work together to address rampant inflation.

The initiative was unveiled after a virtual meeting convened by Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.

He said the aim was to give people access to “food and basic products at better prices” through steps such as removing import tariffs and other trade barriers.

The priority is to reduce “the cost of these products for the poorest and most vulnerable,” according to a statement released after the talks, which also included the leaders of Argentina, Belize, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Cuba, Honduras, Venezuela and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.

Like other parts of the world, Latin America is suffering from elevated inflation blamed partly on shortages linked to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the coronavirus pandemic.

Inflation for the whole region ended 2022 at 14.8 percent, according to the International Monetary Fund, and hit around 95 percent in Argentina — the highest in more than 30 years.

Although the pace of consumer price increases has moderated recently in some countries such as Mexico, Lopez Obrador warned that inflation remained “a threat.”

The leaders agreed to create a working group made up of government representatives from each country to determine cooperation measures, particularly in the area of fertilizers — one of the products most affected by the Ukraine war.

If the countries find a way to boost supplies within the region, “it will undoubtedly be beneficial,” Cesar Salazar, an expert at the National Autonomous University of Mexico’s Institute of Economic Research, told AFP.

“The big challenge is that Latin American economic integration is certainly very weak,” he said, noting that Mexico has close trade links with the United States, and Brazil with China.

Lopez Obrador invited the leaders to a summit on May 6-7 in the Mexican beach resort of Cancun to discuss the issue further.