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Panama heats up over FTA

Prensa Latina, Cuba

Panama Heats Up over FTA

11 January 2006

Panama, Jan 11 (Prensa Latina) The resignation Wednesday of a key minister at Panama-US Free Trade Agreement (FTA) talks added more fuel to the national atmosphere, which looks like it’s heading for a revival of the union movement.

In this context, the National Front for the Defense of Social-Economic Rights is preparing today a strategy to carry out more anti-FTA actions and against the high cost of living resulting from rising electricity prices.

On Tuesday, unions, civic groups and students surrounded the Trade and Industries Ministry and the Public Services Regulator and fiercely criticized the government for the eventual signing of an FTA with the US and the energy price hikes in force since January 1.

Meanwhile, the abdication of Agricultural Development Minister (MIDA) Laurentino Cortizo darkened the ninth round of FTA negotiations between Panama and the US in Washington.

In his resignation letter, Cortizo cites his concern over the imposition of US sanitary measures, despite previous accords which follow those of the World Trade Organization, which leave Panama exposed to suffering from disastrous plagues in agriculture.

Faced with that situation, President Martin Torrijos appointed Guillermo Salazar as the new MIDA minister Tuesday and asserted his nation would never compromise its phytosanitary and hygienic norms at the FTA, which is directed towards definitive deals, according to local analysts.