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Panama protests build over US FTA

Prensa Latina, Cuba

Panama Protests Build Over US FTA

16 February 2006

Panama, 16 Feb (Prensa Latina) Agricultural unions and associations in Panama repeated their intention Thursday to continue protests over the way the Isthmus government is negotiating a free trade treaty with the United States.

Panama’s First Vice President and Foreign Minister Samuel Lewis Navarro has traveled to Washington in the last two weeks to unclog negotiations stalled since January over US impositions to which Panamanian agriculture produces objected.

To propitiate a rapid signing, Lewis Navarro dined with US Secretary of State Condolezza Rice, as part of the Latin American "quartet" closest to the White House at the moment: Mexico, Colombia, El Salvador and Panama.

The agriculture sector, including veterinarians and agronomic engineers, repeated their denunciation of the secrecy surrounding these conversations with Washington and reject imposition of sanitary systems that would only help northern produce.

In addition to continuing the protests, Sergio Anguizola, president of the Nation Agriculture Producers Union, said they would urge the government to dialogue to discuss this matter.

Last week, President Martin Torrijos announced progress in conversations with the US to revitalize the talks to sign a free trade treaty and Panamanian experts are in the US to observe the sanitary practices there.