U.S. President George Bush and Peruvian President Alan Garcia have signed a free trade agreement between their countries. VOA White House Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, trade between the United States and Peru has more than doubled over the past three years to nearly $9 billion.

President Bush says the agreement creates new opportunities for both Americans and Peruvians.

"Opening up markets to U.S. goods and services with help the Peruvian consumer," he said. "By removing barriers to U.S. services and investment, the agreement will help create a secure, predictable legal framework that will help attract U.S. investors."

The deal eliminates duties on 80 percent of U.S. industrial and commercial goods sold in Peru as well as tariffs on more than two-thirds of U.S. agricultural products.

Mr. Bush says it locks in access for Peruvian businesses to the world's largest market and will benefit Peruvian consumers with more choices and lower prices.

Getting the deal through Congress is the result of an arrangement with the White House earlier this year to include enforceable labor and environmental protections in free trade agreements.

President Bush says that approach is working. He wants Congress to approve pending deals with Colombia and Panama to show Washington is serious about expanding hemispheric trade when American influence is being challenged by Venezuela and Argentina.

"Those who espouse the language of false populism will use failure of these trade agreements as a way of showing America isn't committed to our friends in the hemisphere," he said. "It is vital that Congress send a strong message that the United States of America is committed to advancing freedom and prosperity in our neighborhood and approve these agreements with strong bipartisan majorities."

President Garcia called it a great day for democracy and social justice and a bad day for authoritarianism and those who he says are against democracy and free trade.

"This is a crucial opportunity to consolidate hemispheric relations," he said. "The ties between the U.S. and Latin America have been plagued by misunderstandings, but they are also full of great prospects for reaching democracy and consensus."

President Bush also used the signing ceremony to call on Congress to approve a free trade agreement with South Korea.