San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Telecom Stalemate in U.S.-Panama Trade Talks

PANAMA CITY (AFP) – The openingof Panama’s agriculture and telecommunicationssectors remained a majorsticking point during this week’s fifthround of free-trade talks between Panamaand the United States, according toPanama’s head negotiator, Estif Aparicio.The latest talks started last Mondayin Panama City, focusing on the areas ofagriculture, textiles, investment and telecom,with few advances made in any areas.According to Aparicio, Panama wantsto respect its existing exclusive operatingcontracts with private telecom companiesCable and Wireless and Telefónica deEspaña.The contracts were awarded to thecompanies in 1995, and provide exclusivelicenses until 2007 (U.S. company BellSouth last week bought out the contractof Telefónica de España).The United States’ position is thatPanama must to open its telecom sectorimmediately for the free-trade agreement.

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