San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

US-Panama Free Trade Agreement to go into effect Oct. 31

WASHINGTON – The United States and Panama exchanged formal notices, fulfilling the last requirement for the free trade agreement to take effect at the end of this month, the countries announced Monday.

“Under this comprehensive agreement, Panama will eliminate tariffs and other barriers to U.S. exports, which will promote economic growth, and expand trade between our two countries,” U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk said.

The announcement came just two weeks after Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli signed legislation that protects intellectual property and patents and creates conflict-resolution mechanisms. These were requirements for a free trade agreement with the United States.

The U.S. Congress approved the accord back in October 2011, along with U.S. agreements with Colombia and South Korea.

Panama is attractive to the United States because of its strategic location and the ongoing expansion of its canal, through which two-thirds of U.S. trade passes.

Sales of U.S. goods to Panama in 2010 totaled more than $8.2 billion. Under the new accord, U.S. officials say this figure could rise to more than $20 billion.

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