From the Wall Street Journal:
NEW YORK — The U.S. and Panama signed a free-trade agreement Thursday that will eliminate tariffs on almost 90% of U.S. consumer and industrial exports to the Central American nation, the U.S. Trade Representative said.
The signing of the FTA comes at a crucial time, as the Bush administration’s Trade Promotion Authority expires Sunday. The so-called fast-track authority allows Congress to vote up or down on trade deals but not amend them. Any agreements signed before this weekend’s end date will still be considered under the fast-track authority.
The U.S. and Panama started FTA negotiations in April 2004. Total bilateral trade between the two countries totaled $3.1 billion in 2006, according to the USTR. Panama already has “broad duty free-access” to the U.S. because of several programs such as the Generalized System of Preferences for developing countries, the USTR said. However, only a quarter of U.S. industrial exports and 34% of agricultural exports entered Panama duty-free in 2006.
Got that? From 25 percent to 90 percent of U.S. industrial exports going to Panama duty-free — an accomplishment possible because of Trade Promotion Authority.
Meanwhile, the Trade Promotion Authority clock ticks down.
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