WASHINGTON – The U.S. and Peru have wrapped up negotiations on a free trade agreement, officials from both countries said Wednesday.
The pact was reached after Colombia and Ecuador halted their own discussions with Washington on what was expected to be a regional agreement linking all three countries with the United States.
Negotiators from Colombia and Ecuador had complained that the strong desire by Peru for a deal had strengthened the U.S. bargaining position at their expense.
U.S. officials expressed the hope that negotiations with those two nations would resume next year.
"An agreement with Peru is a key building block in our strategy to advance free trade within our hemisphere," U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman said in a statement. "We hope to later bring in the other Andean countries including Colombia and Ecuador."
Portman announced the agreement jointly with Alfredo Ferrero, Peru's foreign trade minister.
Bolivia has participated in the talks as an observer.
In Peru's capital, Lima, President Alejandro Toledo said his country had emerged from the talks as "the winner."
"Now we can hold our place in the market and stay competitive," he said.
In addition to eliminating tariffs, Peru will remove barriers to trade in services, provide a secure legal framework for U.S. investors operating in Peru and an effective system to settle trade disputes, U.S. trade officials said.
Negotiations between Peru and the U.S. resumed Monday when a delegation arrived for nearly round-the-clock discussions, with instructions from Toledo to complete talks no matter what, said officials close to the talks who asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of negotiations.
The Peruvian delegation had resisted some U.S. proposals, leading Toledo to send trusted prime minister and Cabinet chief, Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, to speed talks.
In Lima, Luis ZuIniga, president of Peru's National Agricultural Convention, said the Washington talks were "not a negotiation but an acceptance of everything the United States wants."
President Bush, by law, must give Congress 90 days' notice of his intention to sign the treaty with Peru.
The agreement's ratification by Congress could be complicated by next November's midterm elections. U.S. lawmakers have been reluctant to get involved in free trade debates, which have seen tenacious opposition recently.
In 2004, Peru and the U.S. conducted $5.8 billion in trade.
The Bush administration has completed similar agreements with Australia, Bahrain, Chile, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Morocco, Nicaragua, Oman and Singapore.
Talks are under way with Panama.