January 22, 2008 / 6:20 PM / in 10 years

Peru says trade pact with Canada almost ready

LIMA (Reuters) - Peru and Canada have nearly reached a free-trade agreement and should finish talks this weekend, the Peruvian trade minister said on Tuesday, as the Andean country aggressively pushes pacts from China to Mexico.

Most of the final details of the deal with Canada were worked out late on Monday, Peru’s Mercedes Araoz told local radio. But a spokesman for Canada’s trade ministry said the deal has not yet been completed.

Peru signed a free-trade deal with the United States in December and wants to trade with other countries as fears mount about a U.S. economic recession.

“If we only focus on the United States, we run the risk of being in a difficult situation,” Araoz said.

Peru plans to strike trade deals this year with China, Singapore and Mexico.

Peru’s economy has been growing 8 percent a year and President Alan Garcia, a former leftist, says free trade will lift incomes in a country where 40 percent of people live in poverty.

Most of Peru’s exports to Canada are related to minerals. Peru is the world’s largest producer of silver and the third-largest producer of copper and zinc.

Peru imports much of the wheat it consumes and Canada is a leading exporter of the grain.

Reporting by Maria Luisa Palomino and Dana Ford, additional reporting by Louise Egan in Ottawa, Editing by Terry Wade and John O'Callaghan

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