Politics, Business & Culture in the Americas

United States, Panama Clear Major Hurdle on Free Trade

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The Office of the United States Trade Representative announced yesterday afternoon that the Obama administration has resolved outstanding issues with Panama and will submit the U.S.-Panama Trade Promotion Agreement to the U.S. Congress shortly. In a letter sent to chairmen and ranking members of pertinent House and Senate committees, U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk announced that a Tax Information Exchange Agreement had been signed recently between the Panamanian and U.S. governments.

The exchange of tax information agreement paves the way for the Obama administration to introduce the free-trade agreement (FTA) in Congress. The bilateral pact was originally signed in June 2007 under the Bush administration, but upon taking office in 2009 Obama had pledged to renegotiate the FTA under concerns that Panama is a tax haven for income tax evaders.

The U.S.-Panama FTA is joined by agreements with with Colombia and South Korea as having been agreed upon but not yet ratified by Congress. Amid Republican pressure on the Obama administration to pass the FTAs as soon as possible, Ambassador Kirk said that the three pacts are likely to be submitted separately to Congress, rather than as one comprehensive piece of legislation. Kirk is nonetheless optimistic that all three agreements will win approval in 2011.

The White House also announced on Monday that Panamanian President Ricardo Martintelli will travel to Washington on Thursday, April 28 to meet U.S. President Barack Obama for the first time.

Tags: Barack Obama, Free Trade, Panama, Ricardo Martinelli
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