Peru President Vizcarra Calls for Protecting Trade Agreements

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By Lucien O. Chauvin

Peru’s new President Martin Vizcarra stressed April 12 the need to boost trade agreements in the region, including a sweeping Asia-Pacific deal signed in March, to continue strengthening economic growth in the hemisphere.

Vizcarra, who took office March 23 after his predecessor resigned, said the rise of protectionism is one of the principal threats to the region.

Speaking at a business leaders’ meeting prior the Summit of the Americas April 13-14 in Peru, the president said it was necessary to protect existing trade agreements and “work toward next generation agreements like the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), which links Latin American countries with the Asia-Pacific.”

The CPTPP was signed in March by 11 countries—Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam. The agreement replaces a deal concluded in 2016 that included the U.S., but which required changes last year after President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. in one of his first actions after taking office.

The U.S. role at the Summit has been shrinking since Trump decided to skip the event, the first time a U.S. president has not attended since the meetings began in 1994. U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, scheduled to attend, canceled his trip April 12. Vice President Mike Pence is scheduled to arrive April 12.

Peruvian Trade and Tourism Minister Rodgers Valencia told Bloomberg Law on the sidelines of the meeting that the CPTPP had been sent to the country’s Foreign Affairs Ministry for review. The ministry will decide if the agreement needs to go to Congress or can be approved by executive order.

“We are confident that ratification will move ahead in the 11 countries. We do not have a date in Peru, but the process is under way,” said Valencia.

The CPTPP will come into force when a minimum of six of the 11 signatory countries ratify it.

Regional Integration

Luis Alberto Moreno, president of the Inter-American Development Bank that organized the business summit, said in his opening address that governments in the region are aware of the need to deepen integration.

He said the “trade blocks in the region, Mercosur and the Pacific Alliance, today are interested in joining together after following different tracks for many years.”

Mercosur includes Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay, and the Pacific Alliance, which includes Chile, Colombia, Mexico, and Peru, have taken tentative steps toward forming a single regional block.

Mercosur is negotiating a trade deal with the European Union, while the Pacific Alliance is negotiating with Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and Singapore to become associate members. Valencia said a “big announcement” in the talks with the associate members could come in July.

Moreno said the region needs “to think beyond tariffs and customs offices. We need the ambition to imagine other dimensions of integration.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Lucien O. Chauvin in Lima, Peru, at correspondents@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jerome Ashton at jashton@bloomberglaw.com

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