Peru, Japan sign deal to scrap nearly all tariffs

Tue May 31, 2011 12:52pm EDT

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* Peru expects Japan lawmakers to ratify agreement in June

* Lima has at least 10 agreements, including China, Mexico

LIMA May 31 (Reuters) - Peru and Japan signed an economic partnership agreement on Tuesday, a final effort by one of Latin America's most committed free-traders, outgoing President Alan Garcia, to tap lucrative Asian markets.

Garcia finished the year-long negotiation with officials of the world's No. 3 economy last November. Peru expects Japan's parliament to approve the deal in June, though a legislative backlog due to the March 11 earthquake could delay it until August, Peru's trade minister said on local radio.

"This is a tremendous opportunity to increase the exports of agricultural and fishery products as well as textiles and clothing," Minister Eduardo Ferreyros said.

The agreement will lift tariffs on 99.8 percent of goods in 10 years, excluding some Peruvian meat, sugar and fish products.

Japanese cars, televisions and cell phones in turn will have access to Peru's booming economy, which is fueled in large part by escalating domestic demand.

Peru has more than a dozen trade agreements, including with the United States and the European Union, and exports to China increased 33 percent in 2010. Minerals account for 60 percent of Peru's exports, but the country seeks to diversify into specialty agricultural and manufactured goods.

Earlier this month, Peru signed trade agreements with Panama and Costa Rica and has talks ongoing with other Central American countries as well as the Trans-Pacific Partnership that includes nine members of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation group. (Reporting by Caroline Stauffer and Marco Aquino; Editing by Kenneth Barry)

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