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Taiwan-Panama: President Chen Offers to Help Panama Widen Canal

Central News Agency, Taiwan

31 August 2004


Panama, Aug. 31 (CNA) President Chen Shui-bian said Tuesday he hopes to expand Taiwan’s economic footprint in the Americas through the recently signed free trade agreement (FTA) with Panama and offered to assist with the Central American country’s plan to widen the Panama Canal. Chen made the remarks during a meeting with Panamanian President-elect Martin Torrijos, who will be sworn in on Wednesday. Chen noted that trade between Taiwan and Panama hit US$140 million in the first six months after the FTA took effect on Jan. 1 this year, with Panama’s exports to Taiwan increasing five times during the same period. Chen said the amount has surpassed the total trade volume of last year, which he said shows that the FTA is very helpful to the development of bilateral trade and economic ties. Taiwan enterprises now maintain investments worth US$1 billion in Panama, the president said. In addition, Chen said Taiwan is willing to assist with Panama’s plan to widen the Panama Canal because it is important to many Taiwan businesses including Evergreen Marine Co. and Yang Ming Marine Transport. But Torrijos said the plan, which was one of his campaign promises, has yet to be finalized because of the controversial nature of the project. Torrijos said a referendum might be held to let the people decide whether to go ahead with the expansion. Also during the meeting, Torrijos accepted President Chen’s invitation for him to visit Taiwan. Chen is making a two-day state visit to Panama mainly to attend Torrijos’ inauguration. He will also visit Belize before returning to Taiwan on Sept. 5. (By Y.F. Low)