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Mon, May 19, 2008 - Page 10 News List

Leaders agree to flexible trade framework in Lima

AP , LIMA

The EU and the Andean Community agreed on Saturday on a framework for an agreement that would knock down some commercial barriers — despite deep disagreements on free trade within the South American bloc's members.

Peruvian President Alan Garcia said leaders will hold a fourth and final round of talks on June 12 on the deal between the Andean Community and its largest commercial partner after the US. Details were not released.

The preliminary agreement was reached a day after European, Latin American and Caribbean leaders pledged to fight poverty, global warming and high food prices in a biennial summit.

Participants in the main summit said in a declaration late on Friday that the deal will take into account disagreements both between and within the two regions. Andean community member nations Peru and Colombia both favor more open commerce, while Ecuador and Bolivia oppose free trade deals.

Those disagreements showed earlier this week as Bolivian President Evo Morales accused Peru, which has the fastest-growing economy in the bloc, of trying to negotiate a trade deal on its own.

Peru denied the accusation, calling it “unjust.”

“We want trade,” Morales said in a statement, “but fair trade that allows us to find an equilibrium between continents.”

He urged negotiators not to sideline Bolivia from talks simply because it’s more cautious about eliminating trade barriers.

Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa said the agreement seeks to resolve the differences.

“I think negotiation as a bloc can be achieved within the Andean Community despite the differences,” he said in his weekly radio address. “The proposed strategy is a flexible framework in which the countries can adhere to certain parts of the agreement, but not others” that they don’t like.

Both Morales and Correa have vowed not to sign free-trade agreements with the US, as Colombia and Peru have done.

The two presidents have repeatedly said they don’t want the EU trade pact to look like deals the US has with various Latin American countries.

Morales and Correa also want the EU to ease restrictions on Andean immigration to Europe.

Trade between the EU and the Andean Community reached US$16.6 billion in 2006, up from US$7.6 billion in 2000, the South American bloc said.

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