USTR Officials Miriam Sapiro and John Melle Discuss FTA Implementation at AmCham Lunch

Sunday, October 9, 2011 - 10:54

Panama City, Panama—November 9, 2011—At a lunch at The American Chamber of Commerce & Industry of Panama (AmCham) headquarters, Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Miriam Sapiro and Assistant Trade Representative for the Western Hemisphere John Melle (USTR) thanked AmCham for its efforts in promoting the U.S.- Panama Free Trade Agreement (FTA), and said that AmCham’s importance in the approval process was the reason she made AmCham her first stop on her business agenda while in Panama.

Ambassador Sapiro spoke to a group of high level executives from such companies as Dell, Chevron, Caterpillar, ChemOil, Exxon Mobil, Manzanillo International, Minera Panama and AES. The corporate community asked for clarification on a few issues such as property rights, security and transparency. Sapiro, in response, said these issues have already been addressed in the agreement so that U.S.-based corporations should feel no hesitation in investing in Panama.

In addition, Ambassador Sapiro and Mr. Melle praised the magnificent work already done by the Panamanian Government, using legislative progress on sensitive topics such as labor rights and tax transparency as examples.

The conversation centered on the logistics of the implementation process and the dissemination of information about its progress to the general community in a timely fashion. In regards to implementation of the FTA, Sapiro emphasized that President Obama wants the process to move as quickly as possible. The work will shift now to Panamanian authorities such as Vice Minister Diana Salazar and Minister Ricardo Quijano of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry (MICI) to meet the legislative changes required by and previously agreed upon by both parties.

President of AmCham Juan Carlos Arias commented that although Panama is not a big country, it has become important in global commerce as a logistical hub, a platform from which businesses can spread through Latin America. Ambassador Sapiro agreed, and added that with its impressive economic growth and the FTA passed, Panama should expect to see an increase in U.S. direct investment even before the implementation process is completed.

In her closing comments, Ambassador Sapiro agreed to keep AmCham updated as the two governments make progress and said she expects AmCham to continue to play an important role in keeping the U.S.-Panama trade agreement a top priority on the agenda of the Panamanian National Assembly. AmCham offered its resources to Ambassador Sapiro, should she need additional information from the Chamber or its members as the process moves forward.