Peru: FTA advances in Washington

The US House of Representatives voted 285 to 132 on Nov. 8 to approve the Peru Free Trade Agreement (FTA, or TLC for its initials in Spanish). The agreement, which eliminates tariffs and establishes new rules for foreign investment, was approved by Peru’s Congress in June 2006. It still requires ratification by the US Senate, but the measure is expected to pass when it comes up for a vote the week of Nov. 12.

The Peru FTA is the first trade agreement the House has approved since the Democrats won control of the US Congress in November 2006. Democrats opposed the FTA narrowly by about 116-109, but the party’s leaders strongly supported the accord. “I absolutely refuse to have the Democratic Party be viewed as an anti-trade party,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said before the vote. The Democratic leaders said the accord was acceptable because of labor and environmental clauses they had gotten the administration of US president George W. Bush to include.

Analysts say the passage of the Peru FTA doesn’t guarantee success for three other pending trade accords. The FTAs with Colombia, Panama and South Korea are considered more controversial. Lori Wallach, director of the Global Trade Watch Division of the DC-based nonprofit Public Citizen, noted the continuing popular opposition to FTAs. “No US labor, environmental, consumer, faith, family farm or development group supported this agreement, which also is opposed by both of Peru’s labor federations, its major indigenous people’s organization and its leading archbishop,” she said after the vote in the House. (Bloomberg, Nov. 8, Public Citizen press release, Nov. 8)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Nov. 11

See our last post on Peru.