December 13, 2012 / 2:25 PM / in 5 years

Peru's Congress approves free-trade pact with EU

LIMA, Dec 13 (Reuters) - Peru’s Congress unanimously approved a free-trade pact with the European Union late on Wednesday, meaning the Andean country now has trade agreements with every major economy from China to Japan and the United States.

The 94-to-0 vote, which was widely expected, was held a day after EU lawmakers gave free-trade accords with Colombia, Peru and six Central American nations the necessary approvals to take effect next year.

Peru, South America’s fastest-growing economy, now has 16 trade pacts signed or in effect and President Ollanta Humala has pushed exports of everything from minerals to specialty agricultural products despite his leftist past.

Officials say the pact with the EU could add 0.7 percentage point to economic growth over the long term in Peru, which is on track for growth of 6.3 percent this year.

Peru, Chile and Mexico, the most open economies in Latin America, are also participating in the U.S.-led Trans-Pacific Partnership, which would further liberalize trade among 11 Asia-Pacific countries.

Their aggressive free-trade programs contrast with countries on the Atlantic such as Brazil, Argentina and Venezuela, which have been more reluctant to slash trade barriers.

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