Peru Sees Its Chances Boosted for US Trade Deal
By Jude Webber
Jul 11, 2005
LIMA, Peru - Peru is moving faster in free-trade talks with the United States than Andean partners Colombia and Ecuador, and it will seek to sign a bilateral deal if an accord among all the countries cannot be reached, Economy Minister Pedro Pablo Kuczynski said Monday.
"We’re in the final stretch; we’re considerably more advanced than the other Andean countries," Kuczynski told a news conference with foreign correspondents.
"In our conversations in Washington at the U.S. Trade Representative, the State Department, the Treasury, we’ve been told that we are... more dynamic than the others," he added.
A U.S. trade official in Washington said: "We still have a ways to go with each of our Andean partners, but Peru is making a very constructive effort to bring unresolved issues to a satisfactory close."
She declined to say whether that meant Peru could finish first.
The Andeans want to lock in permanent duty-free access to the United States, where they send 40 percent of their produce, before a more limited pact ends in December 2006. Talks began in May 2004 and the original goal was to end by January 2005.
But 10 rounds of negotiations have been dogged by slow progress on agriculture, an area that includes sensitive products for both the United States and the Andean nations.
An 11th round takes place in Miami from July 18-22.
"For us it’s fundamental to wrap this up," Kuczynski said. "Obviously it would be better to do it as a group of three but if we can’t do that, we’ll do so alone," he added.
Kuczynski said Peru had to resolve an internal matter- fiscal compensation to corn, cotton and possibly wheat producers while tariffs for their goods are phased out.
The government will unveil measures worth 80 million to 100 million soles ($25 million to $31 million) next week and "with that we’d have everything pretty much resolved," he said.
Nonetheless, farmers who believe the proposed free-trade pact is a raw deal plan a one-day strike Thursday.
Colombia Talks Stuck on Agriculture
Peru had originally been warned it could get left out of any free-trade pact unless it made swift progress on resolving a series of tax and other lawsuits involving U.S. companies. Colombia at that time was seen as in pole position.
But one Bogota-based source close to the talks told Reuters: "Colombia and the United States still have some big differences over agriculture."
No Colombian officials were immediately available for comment.
Ecuador’s progress was stalled by a political crisis in which former President Lucio Gutierrez was fired in April.
"The accord is a multilateral agreement, between four countries, not between each of us and the United States," said Cristian Espinoza, adviser to Ecuador’s negotiation team.
"We’re advancing slowly... we all have sensitive issues," he added.
The United States rejects Andean fears that opening markets to U.S. products would cause the collapse of the three nations’ agricultural sectors and block access to cheap medicines.
The protracted U.S. negotiations with the Andean countries are taking place as the Bush administration battles to win congressional approval for a free trade agreement with Central American countries and the Dominican Republic.
Additional reporting by Hugh Bronstein in Bogota, Alexandra Valencia in Quito and Doug Palmer in Washington