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Bob McMillanAn Opinion

By Bob McMillan
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Free Trade With Panama – U.S. No – Canada – Yes

A few weeks ago Canada signed a free trade deal with Panama. At the same time, the trade deal between the United States and Panama, signed in 2007, has yet to be approved by the Congress. How can that be when President Obama has declared that he is open to more trade?

Could it be that union protests are the reason? The sad point is that we have a positive trade balance with Panama, and an agreement would even end up improving that balance in favor of the United States.

Panama is currently on track to double the capacity of the Canal by 2014. It is a massive undertaking with a price tag of $5.25 billion. Some analysts say that U.S. companies have been cut out of the expansion bidding process, because the Congress have been sitting on the trade deal for some three years.

Beyond the trade issues, Panama is also becoming a new center for the location of companies from around the world. With the U.S. dollar the official currency of the country, a modern airport, and the knowledge of English by a majority of Panamanians, it is no wonder that corporate development is on a fast track. In addition, there is a positive attitude towards people from the United States from 80 percent of the people in Panama.

It is no wonder that Panama is the fourth most popular place for vacation homes after Florida, North Carolina and Arizona.

As for the Canal, almost 70 percent of all cargo transiting the waterway is destined to or from the United States. To not keep positive relations with Panama does not make any sense at all.

After considering all of the above, I decided to reach out to the Office of the United States Trade Representative in Washington to obtain information about the delay in Congressional actions. First, I called the media office on May 17, 2010. I tried a couple of times and never received an answer.

Then, I wrote an email to the office – This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . My question was simple, “….why nothing has happened with regards to the 2007 agreement signed between the United States and Panama?” As of this date, I have not had an answer. It is too bad that this issue is put under the rug. Relations between Panama and the United States are too important to have a dysfunctional Congress take no action.

It is in the best interests of the United States to conclude the trade deal with Panama. To make it happen, the Congress has to act now!

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