OTTAWA -- Canada plans to announce today that it has wrapped up negotiations on a free-trade agreement with Peru, as the Harper government tries to gain ground in the global race to clinch preferential access to new markets.
The deal is Canada's second free-trade agreement in South America, after Chile, and gives Canadian businesses more unfettered access to a fast-growing continent.
International Trade Minister David Emerson expects to announce that a deal has been reached when he meets his Peruvian counterpart during World Economic Forum meetings in Davos, Switzerland, his office said.
Two-way annual trade with Peru is about $2.4-billion and the South American country is an important destination for Canadian capital, with about $2.9-billion invested in sectors such as mining and banking.
The Peru deal is Canada's second new free-trade deal in seven years, as the Harper government tries to catch up in the rush to sign free-trade agreements as global efforts at the World Trade Organization continue to flounder.
Previous Liberal governments began talks on at least seven new free-trade agreements and several investor protection deals. But they completed few; the last free-trade agreement they signed was with Costa Rica in 2001.
Mr. Emerson is also in Davos to formally sign the first free-trade deal the Harper government reached last year with Norway, Switzerland, Iceland and Liechtenstein, all members of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) and countries that don't belong to the 27-nation European Union.
The new accord could still be derailed if the Harper minority government doesn't get at least one opposition party to back the deal in Parliament.
Business groups hailed the two deals.
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"By improving market access for Canadian exporters and enhancing protection for Canadian investments, these agreements will benefit companies and workers in a wide range of sectors," said Thomas d'Aquino, head of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives.
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