Canada Signs Free-Trade Pact with Panama

In addition to lowering tariffs in a broad range of sectors, the pact will secure access to Panama's procurement market.

Canadian and Panamanian trade ministers on Friday signed a Canada-Panama free trade agreement that will grant access to Canadian firms to help in a US$5.2 billion Panama Canal expansion.

Canadian Trade Minister Peter Van Loan and his Panamanian counterpart Roberto Henriquez signed the deal in Ottawa.

"Today's historic signing marks a new era in relations with a key partner and much-valued friend in the Americas," commented Peter Kent, a junior minister of state of foreign affairs. "Our government is working with like-minded countries such as Panama to secure a brighter, more prosperous future for our hemisphere."

In addition to lowering tariffs in a broad range of sectors, including creating new opportunities for the Canadian construction, manufacturing and agriculture industries, the pact will secure access to Panama's procurement market. This includes the $5.2 billion expansion of the Panama Canal, which the United States built between 1904 and 1914 and handed over to Panama in 1999.

It is currently undergoing an expansion that would allow it to accept giant super-tankers capable of carrying as many as 12,000 containers.

Last year, Canadian merchandise exports to Panama totaled C$91.4 million (US$88.4 million), up 52% since 2005.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2010

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