United States Trade Representative Ron Kirk and Panama Minister of Commerce and Industry Ricardo Quijano met today in Washington, D.C. Minister Quijano took office on August 30, 2011 and is making his first visit to Washington in his new capacity.
Ambassador Kirk and Panamanian Minister Quijano
Ambassador Kirk and Minister Quijano celebrated the approval of the U.S.-Panama Trade Promotion Agreement by the United States Congress last week. President Obama will sign the implementing legislation on Friday, October 21. Panama’s congress approved the agreement in 2007. Ambassador Kirk and Minister Quijano discussed the process of implementing the agreement and agreed to begin work immediately, with a goal of allowing the agreement to enter into force as quickly as is feasible.
Panama is one of the fastest growing economies in Latin America, expanding 7.5 percent in 2010, with similar annual growth forecast through 2015. This comprehensive agreement will open markets for American firms and increase trade and exports. Increasing U.S. exports through this agreement will support additional jobs for American workers who produce Made-in-the-USA goods and services.
More than 87 percent of U.S. exports of consumer and industrial products to Panama will become duty-free immediately, with remaining tariffs phased out over ten years. Over half of current agricultural trade will receive immediate duty-free treatment, with most of the remaining tariffs to be eliminated within 15 years. The agreement also guarantees access to Panama’s $20.6 billion services market, including in priority areas such as financial, telecommunications, computer, distribution, express delivery, energy, environmental, and professional services.
Businesses across the country are looking forward to the implementation of the agreement. In Denver, Colorado, Russ Steele, Chief Executive Officer of SR International, explained this summer how this agreement, along with the trade agreement with Colombia, will help his company. According to Steele, “[SR International is] already working on increased marketing to Panama and Colombia because we feel that construction machinery will be in higher demand. The trade agreements, once implemented, will have an impact on our business because heavy construction, mining, and agricultural machinery exports will likely drastically increase. I anticipate the need to hire additional employees if we were to find the right opportunity as a result of the new trade agreements.”
Panama’s strategic location as a major shipping route also enhances the importance of the Agreement. Approximately two-thirds of the Panama Canal’s annual transits are bound to or from U.S. ports.
U.S. goods exports to Panama in 2010 were $6.1 billion, up more than 41 percent from 2009. The top export categories in 2010 were mineral fuel, machinery, electrical machinery and aircraft. U.S. exports of agricultural products to Panama in 2010 totaled $445 million with leading categories including coarse grains, soybean meal, and snack foods.
Additional information about the U.S.-Panama Trade Promotion Agreement and our trade with Panama can be found here.