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Canada Reaches Free Trade Deal with HondurasThursday, August 18, 2011 > 13:53:47
Canada has struck a free trade deal with Honduras. Prime Minister Stephen Harper made the announcement Friday during a visit to the Central American nation.
But the deal is controversial. Honduras was kicked out of the Organization of American States after a military coup ousted the country's leftist president in 2009. It has since been re-admitted after it held elections and allowed former president Manuel Zelaya to return. Harper is the first foreign leader to visit since the re-admission.
Harper made the announcement with Honduran President Porfirio Lobo Sosa in San Pedro Sula.
Critics say the country's human rights record is still dismal and it has one of the highest crime rates in the world. Canadian mining companies have also been blamed for health problems among indigenous populations in Honduras.
But the Canadian government has argued that a free-trade deal would give Canada more influence there and help improve the lives of Hondurans. A Canadian government release says the pact includes "strong parallel agreements on labour standards and practices, and environmental protection."
Canada began bilateral talks with Honduras last October following almost a decade of talks with the so-called Central American Four, consisting of Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua.
Two-way trade between Canada and Honduras was worth $192 million in 2010. Canadian exports to Honduras were $40.8 million, while Canada imported $151.2 million worth of goods from the country, which is one of the poorest in the region.
Canada has already signed free trade agreements with the United States, Mexico, Costa Rica, Chile, Colombia, Jordan, Panama, Peru, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. The pact with Colombia goes into effect on Monday. Negotiations are also underway with the European Union and India.
The deal with Honduras won't take effect until it's ratified by each country. Honduras was the last stop on Harper's four-country tour of South and Central America.