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Panama’s president continues push for free trade pact passage

Dow Jones | September 16, 2008

Panama’s President Continues Push For Free Trade Pact Passage

By Meena Thiruvengadam,

WASHINGTON -(Dow Jones)- A day ahead of a scheduled meeting with U.S. President George W. Bush, Panamanian President Martin Torrijos continued pushing Tuesday for approval of a free trade deal between the countries.

Panama’s economy has grown at a 9.5% clip in the first half of 2008 and has seen 23 consecutive quarters of economic growth, he said at a U.S. Chamber of Commerce luncheon.

"We feel confident American investors will become partners in the bright future that lies ahead for Panama," Torrijos said.

The U.S.-Panama Free Trade Agreement, signed more than a year ago, is in line behind a more controversial U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement, which has been stalled in Congress. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi indefinitely postponed a vote on the Colombia deal because of concerns over labor conditions in the country. Congress typically considers trade agreements in the order they are signed.

Torrijos declined to say whether he had or was scheduled to meet with Pelosi.

Sarah Thorn, Wal-Mart Stores Inc.’s (WMT) director of international trade and a member of the Latin America Trade Coalition, vowed to continue fighting for passage of the agreement and pledged to continue that fight for years, if necessary. The Latin America Trade Coalition has been working to secure Congressional approval of the U.S.-Panama and U.S.-Colombia deals.

Torrijos in his speech also said renovation work on the Panama Canal "is advancing on schedule and on budget."

 source: Dow Jones Newswires