Peru says could sign China trade deal next month

LIMA, March 9 Mon Mar 9, 2009 2:14pm EDT

LIMA, March 9 (Reuters) - Peru and China, which wrapped up talks on a free-trade agreement four months ago, could finalize and sign the deal as early as mid-April, Peru's foreign minister said on Monday.

The pact would be China's second agreement with a Latin American country, whose exports it needs to fuel a roaring economy. The Asian nation signed a deal with Chile about three years ago.

Peru ships copper, iron ore and zinc to China, while importing cell phones, machinery and other high-tech items.

"It's very likely we will sign an agreement in mid-April -- probably in China," Foreign Minister Jose Antonio Garcia Belaunde told local radio.

China is the second-largest market for Peruvian exports after the United States, and Peruvian officials have said a trade pact with China could boost Peru's rate of economic growth by 1 percentage point a year.

Peru is seeking similar deals with South Korea, Thailand, Australia and New Zealand, as the government aggressively pushes for open trade in the midst of a global economic slowdown expected to cut Peru's growth to around 5 percent in 2009, from 9.8 percent last year.

The tighter ties come as Chinese firms have committed roughly $5 billion in investments in Peru's mining sector. (Reporting by Teresa Cespedes; Writing by Dana Ford; Editing by Eric Walsh)

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