The European Union has agreed to speed up trade talks with Peru and Colombia because their economies are more advanced than other nations in the Andean Community trade bloc, an official for the Andean group said.

“The EU has accepted the request of the Andean Community that we negotiate at different speeds,” Freddy Ehlers, the Andean Community secretary-general, told reporters after speaking at a trade forum in Lima, Peru’s capital.

“Europe agrees that there are asymmetries, differences in terms of each Andean country’s level of development,” Ehlers said.

The European Union and the four members of the Andean Community—Peru, Colombia, Ecuador and Bolivia—agreed earlier this year to resume trade negotiations.

Peru and Colombia asked for special treatment after Bolivian President Evo Morales, a leftist who often criticizes free trade, expressed doubts about a deal between the Andean group and the EU. Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa is also a free-trade skeptic.

Colombia and Peru, which together are responsible for 83% of the Andean Community’s exports to Europe, have eagerly pushed for free trade agreements with leading economies like the United States.

The Andean Community sells about $10 billion in goods each year to the European Union, the South American group’s second-biggest trading partner after the United States. (Reuters)