President George W. Bush and Peruvian President Alan Garcia on Dec. 14 signed a U.S.-Peru free trade agreement. Bush seized on the signing ceremony to push U.S lawmakers to pass similar accords with Panama, Colombia, saying that all of Latin America was watching "to see what this Congress will do when it comes to how we treat our friends."
"The champions of false populism will use any failure to approve these trade agreements as evidence that America will never treat other democracies in the region as full partners," the U.S .president said. "It's a great day for democracy and social justice and freedom. On the contrary, it's a bad day for authoritarianism and those who against the democracy and free trade," said Garcia.
Garcia noted that the free trade agreement (FTA) was modified under pressure from the Democratic-controlled Congress in May to take into account environmental and human rights concerns. "It has been enhanced in the dialogue with the U.S. Congress, which leads to an extension for the environment and labor chapters, which will favor the poor, the population in the Andes and the small enterprises," he said.
Bilateral trade between the U.S. and Peru amounted to $8.8 billion in 2006, according to U.S. government data. Nearly all products from Peru already have duty-free access to the U.S. The new deal will allow Americans reciprocal access to the growing Peruvian market.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2007