Though the U.S. government has given the stamp of approval to the US Panama-US Free Trade Agreement (FTA) “many conditions are not fulfilled completely today in Panama,” says US Ambassador Jonathan Farrar.
Speaking at the AMCHAM Panama’s Business Gateway to the Americas Forum in Washington, D.C. October 4, Farrar, citing The World Economic Forum’s 2012 report, said that Panama ranks 132nd out of 144 countries in terms of the independency of its legal system, and 94th out of the 144 in terms of investor protection. With the passage of the U.S.-Panama FTA, standards will be put in place to ensure the fair treatment of investors, with the establishment of a transparent legal process for the settlement of investment disputes.
The Ambassador talked of the “guideposts” the FTA will put in place to protect investors, secure workers’ rights, open the government procurement market, and protect intellectual property, as “commerce not only involves an exchange of goods but also an exchange of ideas.”
While highlighting the challenges that Panama still faces before it can attain its vision of building a first-world economy, the ambassador said that major investments by the likes of COPA in Panama's growing air hub, SSA Marine in Panama's world class transshipment activities, and Minera Panama in what will be one of the world's largest copper mines and Panama’s top export, underscore the fact that Panama thrives as a gateway for global commerce.
AMCHAM Panama’s President, Luis Laguerre, stated at the conference, “The establishment of an internationally binding Rule of Law process will ensure free and fair trade practices for our AMCHAM members.”
While AMCHAM Panama views education and training as the key to fueling continued growth in the economy, Ambassador Farrar did not raise any specific issues on education of highly skilled professionals “The availability of skilled labor in the local economy is of paramount importance to member corporations says an AMCHAM press release.
“We will continue to put educational programs into place to help fill the pipeline for future growth of our member companies and growth of the local economy. Education is a priority for our members, and we will advocate programs of higher learning and of worker training in hopes that the public sector will follow our lead,” said Laguerre.
“AMCHAM Panama and Ambassador Farrar share many of the same concerns regarding investment in Panama said the release. “However, we also share in the belief that the future is bright for Panama, and in the country’s long-term bilateral relationship with the United States will continue to flourish. The U.S.-Panama TPA will lead the way as Panama evolves into a first-world economy in which free commerce and fair trade practices are alive and well.”