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Colombia to begin free trade talks with Panama as exports fall

Bloomberg | 10 February 2010

Colombia to Begin Free Trade Talks With Panama as Exports Fall

By Eric Sabo

Feb. 10 (Bloomberg) — Colombia and Panama will begin talks on a free-trade agreement today, said Panama’s Vice Minister of Trade Francisco Alvarez De Soto.

“Panama would be an interesting market for Colombia,” De Soto said in an interview in Panama City. “We are a threat to no one.”

Trade between the two countries totaled $211 million in 2007, the latest year for which information was available, according to Panama’s Commerce Ministry.

The talks come as Colombia faces a plunge in exports to neighboring Venezuela after President Hugo Chavez pledged last year to end imports from the Andean country. Chavez said he was acting in response to a deal that allows U.S. armed forces greater access to Colombian military bases.

Colombian exports to Venezuela may fall by about two-thirds to $1.5 billion this year as a lingering recession and electricity crisis there further suppress demand, central bank chief Jose Dario Uribe said last month.

 source: Bloomberg