At long last, the U.S.-Panama Trade Promotion Agreement that President Obama signed into law more than a year ago is now in force. Manufacturers rely on strong trade agreements such as this and those with Colombia and Korea to remove tariff and non-tariff barriers to trade and investments. Free trade agreements lower costs for manufacturers and consumers alike and result in increased exports and growth for companies in the United States.

As one of the fastest growing markets in Latin America, Panama represents a significant opportunity for manufacturers in the United States.  Beginning today, Panama will drop tariffs on more than 86 percent of industrial and consumer products exported from the United States.  All remaining tariffs on industrial goods will be eliminated within 10 years. Additional information on how manufacturers in the United States can benefit from this agreement can be found on the International Trade Administration’s Website.

While the Trade Promotion Agreement improves market access for U.S. exporters, makes important progress in protecting manufacturers’ investments in Panama, and improves intellectual property rights protections, work remains to be done.  For instance, Panama must commit to combating illicit trade across its borders. While illicit trade is a worldwide problem, it is of particular concern in Panama given its strategic location as a main port of entry to the United States and the western hemisphere. USTR should continue working with their counterparts in Panama to address this problem.

Manufacturers welcome implementation of the U.S.-Panama agreement as a step towards greater trade liberalization around the world and we look forward to the launching of additional bilateral and regional trade negotiations to further open markets to U.S. exports. 

Jessica Lemos is director of international trade policy, National Association of Manufacturers.

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