U.S., Panama to implement trade pact by early November

Thu Oct 4, 2012 12:00pm EDT
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By Doug Palmer

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A long-delayed free trade agreement between the United States and Panama will go into force in the coming weeks, once the Central American country takes a few remaining steps, officials from both countries said on Thursday.

"The United States and Panama are on the eve of bringing an historic trade agreement into force," Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Miriam Sapiro said in a speech at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

The United States is already Panama's largest trading partner and the two countries share a long and sometimes rocky history, linked to the Panama Canal.

About 10 percent of U.S. imports and exports of goods pass through the Panama Canal, and that percentage could rise as Panama completes its $5.3 billion canal expansion project.

The free trade pact, approved by the U.S. Congress nearly a year ago, will support U.S. jobs by immediately eliminating Panama's tariffs on 86 percent of U.S. consumer and industrial goods, including autos, chemicals, electrical equipment, information technology and medical technology, Sapiro said.

It also will immediately eliminate Panama's tariffs on roughly 50 percent of U.S. agriculture exports and guarantees U.S. companies access to Panama's highly services-dominated economy in areas like financial services, telecommunications, energy and professional services.

Panama's remaining agricultural, industrial and consumer product tariffs are phased out over longer periods of time.

Panama's National Assembly last week passed the final piece of legislation to implement the agreement.   Continued...