By Melanie Wheeler, USTR Press Office
Yesterday, key government officials, trade stakeholders, and members of the press were on hand to witness U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk and Panamanian Minister of Commerce and Industry Ricardo Quijano sign a letter exchange setting a date for the entry-into-force of the U.S.-Panama Trade Promotion Agreement (TPA). This letter-exchange and the pending entry-into-force represent a conclusion to a comprehensive negotiating process—negotiation of the Agreement was concluded in 2006, Panama’s government gave it its seal of approval in 2007, and President Obama signed the agreement into law on October 21, 2011. This is the third such agreement to enter-into-force under the Obama Administration within a year of its signing, following the Korean and Colombian agreements.
Ambassador Kirk and Panamanian Minister of Commerce and Industry Ricardo Quijano
exchanged letters in which they determined that the U.S.-Panama Trade
Promotion Agreement will enter into force on October 31, 2012.
Beginning October 31st, Panama will eliminate tariffs on more than 86 percent of U.S. industrial and consumer goods. Almost half of U.S. agricultural goods, which currently face average tariffs of 15 percent, will immediately become duty-free. All tariffs on industrial goods will be eliminated within 10 years, and most of the remaining tariffs on agricultural goods will be eliminated over the next 15 years. U.S. service providers will gain significantly greater access to Panama’s $22 billion services market, and will enjoy greater protections as they do so. As Ambassador Kirk reminded those in attendance, “Panama is one of the fastest growing economies in Latin America, expanding 10.6 percent in 2011, with forecasts of between five to eight percent annual growth through 2017. That adds up to support for more well-paying jobs across the United States.”
Here’s what other stakeholders are saying about yesterday’s event:
United States Department of Agriculture
"The U.S.-Panama Trade Promotion Agreement (Panama TPA) enters into force next week, eliminating tariffs and other barriers to U.S. goods and services, promoting economic growth, and enhancing trade between the United States and Panama. Last year, President Obama insisted that we get this agreement with Panama right-alongside pacts with South Korea and Colombia-forging a better deal for America's workers and businesses that led to strong bipartisan support in both houses of Congress. Altogether, these agreements will bring an additional $2.2 billion in agricultural exports.”
-Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack
United States Department of Commerce
“New U.S. trade agreements mean more export opportunities for American companies–and more American jobs. The U.S.-Panama Trade Promotion Agreement goes into effect next week, and will eliminate the majority of tariffs that U.S. exporters currently face. The agreement guarantees expanded access for U.S. manufactured and agricultural products, as well as to Panama’s $22 billion services market, including in priority areas such as telecommunications, computer, distribution, express delivery, energy, environmental, and professional services. The Commerce Department and the Obama administration stand ready to assist U.S. companies take full advantage of the new opportunities this trade agreement presents.”
-Acting U.S. Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank
Senate Committee on Finance Chairman Max Baucus
“’Free trade agreements like the Panama FTA will give the U.S. economy a much-needed boost and create new jobs for American workers here at home,’ Senator Baucus said. ‘Enhancing and expanding access to rapidly growing foreign markets like Panama is an opportunity for American workers, farmers, ranchers and businesses.’”
House Committee on Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp
“Today's announcement is welcome news for U.S. workers, farmers, ranchers and job-creators. Implementing the U.S.-Panama trade agreement will create new jobs and more paychecks here at home. I congratulate the teams in both countries for their diligent work. In these difficult economic times, we must take advantage of every opportunity to spur growth and create jobs here at home. We must build off this success and continue to promote a robust and ambitious trade and investment agenda that will increase American prosperity and allow us to lead again.”
House Committee on Ways and Means Trade Subcommittee Chairman Kevin Brady
“I welcome the announcement that the U.S.-Panama Trade Promotion Agreement will enter into force on October 31, 2012. We can now begin to regain the market share for U.S. goods and services lost in Panama during the years this agreement sat on the shelf. While I am pleased that entry into force will occur soon, finally implementing an agreement that was completed over five years ago is merely treading water. Much more work needs to be done, such as prompt completion of the Trans-Pacific Partnership and exploration of new market access initiatives for U.S. goods and services abroad.”
House Committee on Ways and Means Human Resources Subcommittee Chairman Erik Paulsen
"Today’s announcement is welcome news for Minnesota workers, farmers, and employers. Our state’s job-creators export nearly $24 million worth of goods to Panama - $7 million of that right here in our own district. With this new agreement we create a level playing field for American businesses in Panama and help create new U.S. jobs and economic growth. But there is more to be done. It is vital that we continue to promote a robust and ambitious trade agenda by completing initiatives like the Trans-Pacific Partnership in order to promote more exports."
U.S. Chamber of Commerce
“’This critical agreement will ignite economic growth and job creation in the U.S. and Panama,” said U.S. Chamber Senior Vice President for International Affairs Myron Brilliant. “With this step, we can take the century-old U.S.-Panama alliance to the next level.’
The agreement will level the playing field for U.S. workers, farmers, and companies by immediately eliminating Panamanian duties on more than 87% of U.S. exports. It will also open services markets and strengthen intellectual property rights.”
“’Implementation of the U.S.-Panama FTA is welcome news as we work to get our economy moving again,’ said Doug Oberhelman, Chairman & CEO of Caterpillar Inc., and Chair of BRT’s International Engagement Committee. ‘Panama is an important strategic and commercial partner for the United States, and this overdue free trade agreement will increase U.S. exports to the fast-growing region, supporting U.S. economic growth and American jobs in the process.’”
Emergency Committee for American Trade
“Calman Cohen, President of the Emergency Committee for American Trade (ECAT), issued the following statement today on the Administration’s announcement that the U.S.-Panama Trade Promotion Agreement would enter into force on October 31, 2012: ‘ECAT welcomes the long-sought implementation of the U.S.-Panama Trade Promotion Agreement (TPA). This high-standard trade and investment accord will provide new markets for American farmers, ranchers, manufacturers and service providers in Panama.’”
Americas Society/Council of the Americas
“Council of the Americas welcomes today’s announcement that the U.S.-Panama Trade Promotion Agreement will enter into force on October 31, 2012. The U.S. Congress voted to approve the agreement by a large bipartisan majority last October. Today, U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk and Panama’s Minister of Commerce and Industry Ricardo Quijano exchanged letters setting October 31 as the date for implementation.”
National Cattlemen’s Beef Association
“‘The cattle industry has been waiting on implementation of this agreement for a long time and we’re looking forward to increased trade opportunities with Panama,’ said Bob McCan, NCBA vice president and a Texas cattleman. ‘The U.S.-Panama Free Trade Agreement immediately eliminates the 30 percent tariff on prime and choice beef cuts and all other duties will be phased out over the next 15 years. This is a positive step forward for American cattlemen and women.’”
American Soybean Association
"The enactment of the free trade agreement with Panama at the end of the month is a big win for soybean farmers," said ASA President Steve Wellman, a soybean farmer from Syracuse, Neb. "Panama is one of the most rapidly-growing economies in Latin America, and represents a valuable market for American soy and the many products like poultry and pork for which soy is critical in the production process. We commend the American and Panamanian governments for their work on seeing this agreement to completion and we look forward to continuing a successful partnership with our friends in Panama."