Bush Signs U.S.-Peru Trade Agreement

President Bush on Friday signed a U.S.-Peru free trade agreement, paving the way for stronger economic ties with the Andean nation and boosting the administration's efforts to shore up relations with Latin America.

"The bill will help increase opportunities for workers, ranchers, farmers and business in both our countries," Bush said, standing with Peru's President Alan Garcia.

Bush said trade is a key driver of economic growth and helps lift people from poverty. He said Peru is one of the fastest-growing economies in the Western Hemisphere, expanding last year by more than 7.5 percent.

"Wish he'd lend us a couple of percent," Bush joked.

The Senate approved the agreement, 77-18, on Dec. 4. That followed a 285-132 House vote last month. The agreement will go into effect after the two countries adjust laws needed to abide by it. Bush thanked Congress for passing the measure, and urged lawmakers to pass other pending free-trade agreements, including one with neighboring Colombia.

The bilateral trade deal approved by Congress is the first under a new Democratic formula that requires negotiators to put labor rights and environmental standards on par with tariff reductions, investor protections and other key elements of the accord.

"It's a great day for Peru," Garcia said. "It's a great day for democracy and social justice and freedom."