Peru trade minister applauds Japan EPA

by Alex Martin

Staff Writer

The recent signing of the Japan-Peru free-trade agreement is beneficial for both nations in boosting trade and opening up investment opportunities, Peru’s trade minister said Wednesday.

Speaking to The Japan Times a day after signing off on an economic partnership agreement with Tokyo, Peruvian Foreign Trade and Tourism Minister Eduardo Ferreyros Kuppers said the new deal was a “win-win” agreement that would allow Japan to benefit not only in trade between Peru but also with its many free-trade partners.

“I would like to see investments in manufacturing and technological products. And who better than Japan to go in and make such products in Peru, and not only sell them in Peru, but also to the rest of South America with which we have free-trade agreements,” Ferreyros said.

The EPA, the 13th Tokyo has signed following one with India, will eliminate tariffs on goods accounting for about 99 percent of trade between Japan and Peru in 10 years.

Products covered by the new EPA include cars, televisions and lithium-ion batteries from Japan, and mineral resources such as copper ore and iron ore, as well as food products such as asparagus and squid from Peru. In fiscal 2010, Japan exported ¥86.3 billion worth of goods to Peru, while importing ¥190.3 billion worth of items from Peru.

Ferreyros said Peru looks forward to increased investments from Japan, especially in technology, as Peru seeks to become a hub for Asian business in South America. “Peru is located in the middle of South America’s Pacific coast, and we are a large nation with big borders.

“We are also in the process of building more ports, airports and highways, and are working so we can be the hub for Japanese, Korean and Chinese businesses,” he said.

Peru has recently enacted free-trade agreements with the United States, China, Singapore and Canada, and in March signed an FTA with South Korea, which will lift tariffs for TVs and certain automobiles once it’s ratified by both legislatures.

Tokyo has been eager to sign an EPA with Peru, concerned that Japanese firms will lose their competitive edge against South Korean rivals if a trade deal is not negotiated soon.

And while Japan is also weighing whether to join talks on the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, it recently decided to postpone its plan to decide by June on whether to join negotiations as it reviewed its policy priorities in the wake of the March 11 catastrophe.

Ferreyros said he understood Japan’s need to focus its attention on reconstruction and other priorities, and said Peru, one of the nine nations involved in the negotiations, will be patiently waiting for Japan to join.

“For us, Japan is a very important partner in this negotiation,” he said.

Peru faces a presidential runoff Sunday that pits Ollanta Humala, an ultranationalist who lost the previous 2006 election to current President Alan Garcia, against Keiko Fujimori, the daughter of jailed former leader Alberto Fujimori.

While polls suggest the race is a dead heat, Ferreyros said that whoever wins, he hoped the next government will continue the steady economic growth Peru has been enjoying for the past decade, and invest in the nation’s infrastructure.

“We just need to keep doing the good work and be patient because we are on our way to becoming a developed country in the near future,” he said.