Twelve nations signed the Cuzco Declaration in Peru to breathe the new South American Community of Nations, combining 361 million people into a single market.

“We are here to give … soul, heart and life to the dream of (Simon) Bolivar,” Peruvian President Alejandro Toledo said, referring to the South American independence icon who fought Spain in the 19th century and hoped to unify the continent into one country.

He was joined by the leaders of Brazil, Colombia, Bolivia, Chile, Surinam and Guyana, while the heads of Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay and Ecuador sent representatives.

“Sooner rather than later we will have a single currency, a single passport,” said President Toledo, at the start of the summit in the ancient Inca capital of Cuzco.

Beginning by phasing out tariffs, they hope it will increase South America’s clout in international trade talks.

The move will create a single market of 361 million people with a combined GDP of around $A1,280 billion.

In their declaration, the presidents said they represented their peoples’ aspirations “in favour of the integration, unity and construction of a common future”.

The bloc sees a convergence of the two main trade groups of the region, the Andean Community (Can) and Mercosur, as well as Chile, Surinam and Guyana.

The bloc’s creation will have little immediate impact, but officials say a higher degree of integration will be beneficial in terms of greater trade and political clout.

However differences exist between members of the bloc, with the regions biggest powers, Brazil and Argentina, currently locked in trade disputes.

Bolivia and Chile have no diplomatic relations at all due to tensions over Bolivia’s claims to a chunk of coast lost to Chile in 1879.

Brazil has been picked to host the first Summit of the South American Community of Nations early next year.

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