Trade agreement with Panama still on hold

By Patrick Burnson · August 9, 2011

In the wake of the contentious debt-ceiling vote, the U.S. Congress headed for its August recess without finalizing action on stalled free trade agreements (FTA) with South Korea, Colombia, and Panama. For U.S. exporters, the hope is that at the very least, a deal with Panama will be cut when Congress reconvenes.

We are encouraged by the fact that Fred P. Hochberg, chairman and president of the Export-Import Bank of the United States (Ex-Im Bank), conducted a business-development mission in Panama on August 7 - 8, 2011, to promote Ex-Im Bank financing available to support sales of U.S. goods and services to private and public-sector buyers.

Panama is the fastest-growing country in Central America, with a GDP growth rate of 7.5 percent in 2010 and strong growth anticipated through 2015. The government of Panama has set ambitious goals for the country’s infrastructure investment that could total more than $10 billion in the next five years, including a $1.5 billion metro line.

As of June 30, 2011, Ex-Im Bank has over $1 billion in exposure in Panama. Ex-Im’s support for Boeing aircraft sales to Copa Airlines, Panama’s flag carrier, constitutes the majority of its financings in the country in recent years, and the Bank is seeking to expand its support beyond the aviation sector.

Hochberg met with Panamanian business leaders to discuss Ex-Im Bank financing available to encourage more companies in Panama to purchase U.S. goods and services. He is focused on expanding use of the Bank’s products for infrastructure development, renewable-energy production, medical and transportation equipment, construction and other sectors.

“From financing U.S. construction equipment for the Pan-American Highway in the 1940s to supporting U.S. aircraft sales to Copa Airlines today, Ex-Im Bank has helped to expand business and tourism in Panama,” said Chairman Hochberg. “The Bank is open for business in all of our programs in Panama. We provide an array of innovative financing tools and resources for Panamanian buyers to purchase U.S. goods and services.”

Commenting on the pending U.S.-Panama Free Trade Agreement, Hochberg noted, “Ex-Im Bank supports Panamanian companies as productive partners with U.S. exporters for the mutual benefit of our countries. The free trade agreement with Panama will allow the Bank to harness additional opportunities in infrastructure and other key sectors and improve U.S. access to Panama’s $20 billion services market.”


About the Author

Patrick Burnson
Patrick Burnson is executive editor for Logistics Management and Supply Chain Management Review magazines and web sites. Patrick is a widely-published writer and editor who has spent most of his career covering international trade, global logistics, and supply chain management. He lives and works in San Francisco, providing readers with a Pacific Rim perspective on industry trends and forecasts. You can reach him directly at [email protected]

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