Free Trade Agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama Sent to Congress

Tuesday, October 4, 2011 - 13:19

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Kimberly Crocker 301-3881 ext. 105

October 4, 2011 Free Trade Agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama Sent to Congress

Washington, D.C. - According to The Wall Street Journal, President Obama formally submitted legislation for the trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama to Congress at 4p.m. on Monday, giving U.S. lawmakers an opportunity to work quickly and pass the pacts and the related worker-assistance program by mid-October. Together, the pacts represent an increase in $13 billion of U.S. exports annually.

The Republican-led House of Congress now has 90 days to approve the agreements and may not amend them, nor does the President wield any control over the ratification process. On Wednesday, the trade deals will receive a final hearing at the House Ways and Means Committee. It would be beneficial to the Obama Administration if the package were passed by mid-October, when South Korea President Lee Myung-bak arrives in Washington for a state visit.

U.S. multinational companies and business groups, led by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and its affiliates, had been pushing the White house to move quickly on these agreements for several months. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), as quoted in the Journal, called passing the agreements “a top priority for the House.” Ambassador Ron Kirk, as quoted by the Office of the United States Trade Representative, said, “Growing American exports to South Korea, Colombia, and Panama will support tens of thousands of jobs here at home. We must take every opportunity to get America back to work, and Congress should pass these agreements without delay.”

The White House has been clear that if these agreements are approved by Congress, they will only enter into force if trading partners are meeting their commitments; for example Panama must continue its programs of enhanced tax transparency and improved labor rights.

Panama seems to be in good standing with U.S. government lawmakers since the country enacted changes in a laws regarding increased transparency into financial transactions and protection of the rights of laborers in Panama. The U.S.-Panama Trade Promotion Agreement, when passed, will create a level playing field between the two countries by eliminating nearly all tariffs on bi-lateral commerce. AmCham Panama believes that implementation of the U.S.-Panama agreement will enhance export and investment opportunities for U.S. companies and will enable American workers to compete in the quickly growing global economy, in which Panama plays a pivotal role as the gateway to the Americas. Panamanians in turn will see gains in employment and enhanced quality of life.

Once ratified, it may take up to twelve to eighteen months for the Free Trade Agreements to actually be implemented and put into force. Hence, Congressional approval is just a first step in a long journey to an increase in exports and jobs for U.S. multinationals and improved prosperity for the Republic of Panama.

“We look forward to the ratification of the FTA with the United States, our largest and most important trading partner, as it represents more bi-lateral trading opportunities to increase commerce, making American products more accessible to our consumers and opening up markets for Panamanian goods & services in the United States, “ according to Juan Carlos Arias, President of AmCham Panama.

About The American Chamber of Commerce & Industry of Panama (AmCham Panama)

Founded in 1979, AMCHAM Panama is a non-profit, non-political, independent, voluntary association supported primarily by membership dues. Much of the organization's work is accomplished through the efforts of volunteer member committees which collaborate to help AMCHAM promote free enterprise in Panama. In addition, we believe that corporate social responsibility and sustainable development are vital to improving long-term social and economic conditions. AmCham Panama has over 450 active members, many of which are major multinational companies based in the United States.

Today, AMCHAM organizations are established in over 90 countries throughout Latin America, Asia and Europe. Panama's Chamber is affiliated with the Association of American Chambers of Commerce in Latin America (AACCLA) and is a fully accredited member of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce of America. The current President of AMCHAM Panama is Juan Carlos Arias, and the Executive Director is C.E. Maurice Bélanger. For more information, please go to Amcham Panama’s website: