Santiago Times | Thursday, 05 March 2009
CONTROVERSY SURROUNDS PERU-CHILE FREE TRADE AGREEMENT
By Claire Beeuwkes
Some Peruvian Officials Are Outraged With New Agreement
Relations between Peru and Chile have been tense for well over 100 years, ever since Chile acquired part of Peru’s coastline during the Pacific War at the end of the 19th century. Although the relationship
between the countries has improved in recent years because of diplomatic efforts on both sides, a recently concluded a Free Trade Agreement (TLC) drawn up by the two presidents has led to more
The Chile/Peru Free Trade Agreement went into effect on March 1 of this year, although Chilean President Michelle Bachelet and her Peruvian counterpart, Alan García, signed the treaty in 2006. The TLC is the final step in the 1998 Economic Complementation Agreement signed between Chile and Peru.
Peruvian critics of the TLC are mostly composed of outraged National Party members, led by left-wing former presidential candidate Ollanta Humala and by former President Alejandro Toledo. These opponents believe the treaty is unconstitutional and blame Peru’s current president for not consulting Congress before making the deal with Bachelet. At least 34 congressmen are now petitioning for legal action before Peru’s Constitutional Tribunal.
The opposition’s principal argument is that Congress should have approved the TLC, as decreed by article 56 of the Constitution. Juvenal Ordenez, a member of the National Party, said, “We cannot allow the first article of this Free Trade Treaty signed with Chile, which puts to the side our dispute over 200 miles of maritime sovereignty.”
Chile and Peru are currently disputing fishing and sovereignty rights for Pacific Ocean territory before the International Court of Justice in The Netherlands. Peru would like the water border to mirror the countries’ land border that follows a southwestern diagonal line, while Chile maintains that the existing border was agreed upon in the 1950s.
Peru’s foreign minister José Antonio García Belaúnde responded to the situation on Tuesday. He explained that the TLC only defines how the territory can be used commercially and needs to be interpreted more generally. For example, the agreement discusses where commercial products are brought and shipped. Belaúnde warned that the opposition’s argument might end up backfiring at the International Court and favor Chile.
President Garcia remains in favor of free trade agreements because he said the treaty can help Peru’s metal exports industry overcome the current world economic crisis.
SOURCE: REUTERS, LA TERCERA