Panama and Colombia are expected to sign a bilateral free trade agreement in Panama City today, finalizing a commitment that was reached by the two countries last June. Panamanian Minister of Commerce and Industry Ricardo Quijano and Colombian Minister of Commerce, Industry and Tourism Sergio Díaz-Granados will participate in the official treaty-signing ceremony.
During a television interview yesterday, Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli expressed optimism about the agreement, saying that it is pivotal for Panama’s integration into the Pacific Alliance. Panama currently has free trade agreements with Chile and Peru and seeks to establish bilateral trade agreements with other Pacific Alliance member states—including Mexico, Chile and Colombia.
Martinelli also confirmed that the agreement will end what he has deemed an "unfair and detrimental” aspect of Panama’s trade relationship with Colombia. Currently, Colombia imposes a 10 percent “re-exportation” tariff on Panamanian-produced textiles and footwear before they are shipped internationally from Colombia’s free trade zone, Zona Libre de Colón. Last year, Colombian exports to Panama amounted to $2.857 billion, 80 percent of which was accounted for by crude oil. In contrast, Panama only exported $72 million of goods to Colombia, represented mainly by apparel shipments.
In the 1992 presidential election, then candidate Bill Clinton had a slogan that his campaign posted on the wall of his electoral headquarters: “it’s the economy, stupid!” Clinton went on to win the election with his “economy first” message beating then President George H. W. Bush who had an over 80 percent approval rating just the year before.
As Americans prepare to go to the polls this November, operatives and pundits from both parties agree that the economy will again be the major issue this fall. Call it anti-incumbency fever or just plain anger; it is all too obvious that Americans are primarily concerned about economic prospects.
About 18 months ago, the U.S. economy teetered on the brink of the worst economic recession since the Great Depression of 1929. By now the narrative is familiar: a federal bailout program of the financial sector (TARP), the collapse of General Motors and Chrysler forcing another bailout effort, and a $787 billion stimulus—the biggest spending program in U.S. history. All this government aid was needed, the experts told us, or we would suffer another Great Depression. Today, economic growth has returned, but with a more modest job picture.
Colombian President Álvaro Uribe answered questions before
The session was at times contentious, with Uribe raising his voice and employing animated gestures to defend his administration’s record in promoting human rights. Not only would passage of the FTA improve his government’s ability to improve and protect human rights, argued Uribe, but “the approval of the free-trade agreement will allow Colombia to overcome poverty, build equity, have a dynamic economy and integrate the country to the largest economies of the world.”
Although both the Left and the Right in