May 30, 2008 / 1:52 AM / 9 years ago

Peru signs free-trade pacts with Canada, Singapore

LIMA (Reuters) - Peru signed free-trade agreements with Canada and Singapore on Thursday as Peruvian President Alan Garcia aggressively pursues trade after reaching a landmark deal with the United States.

Garcia, a former leftist, fervently supports free markets and has slashed almost all taxes and tariffs on goods entering the Andean country.

Peru mainly exports metals and specialty farm products like artichoke and asparagus, and the two trade deals are expected to bring Peruvians cheaper prices for manufactured goods such as cars and electronics.

“Canada is a huge market that we can enter, not just with our gold and metals but also with our textiles,” Garcia told reporters at the presidential palace.

The Peru-Canada deal, which includes what officials called tough environmental and labor standards, is expected to help Canada sell more machinery and grains to Peru.

Peru imports most of the wheat it consumes and hopes it can buy the cereal at lower prices from Canada at a time when the South American country’s poor are being hit hard by rising food prices. Canada is a top wheat exporter.

Canada said two-way commerce between the countries last year was $2.45 billion and Canadian mining companies are among the biggest foreign investors in Peru.

The free-trade pact with Singapore will broaden Peru’s trade reach in Asia, an increasingly important consumer of natural resources.

The two deals still need legislative approval.

Late last year, Peru sealed a free-trade deal with the United States, its biggest accord to date.

Peru, one of the fastest growing economies in the world, is working to forge pacts with other countries -- like China and Mexico -- as fears mount about a U.S. economic recession.

Reporting by Maria Luisa Palomino and Terry Wade; editing by Dana Ford and Mohammad Zargham

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