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Andean Summit Begins in Ecuador

Members of the four-nation Andean Community trade alliance have gathered in Ecuador for a summit aimed at salvaging their regional commerce bloc.

The presidents of Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia and Peru are attending the summit in Quito, Ecuador's capital.

During the summit, the presidents plan to discuss pursuing a free trade pact with the European Union. They also are seeking an extension of trade preferences granted by Washington in 1991. The preferences are due to expire at the end of this year.

Venezuela withdrew from the Andean Community last month, saying the bloc is "fatally wounded" because Peru and Colombia signed free trade deals with the United States.

Advocates say the free trade deals open up markets and create more jobs. Critics say the pacts leave developing countries at a disadvantage with competition from cheaper U.S. products.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.
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