Over two years after beginning talks, a U.S. trade officials said Tuesday that the U.S. and Panama have reached a free trade agreement.
The deal awaits approval from the U.S. Congress next year, along with free trade agreements with Peru and Colombia.
U.S. Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns issued a statement Tuesday supporting the agreement, saying it would "open new export opportunities for our agricultural industry."
"In 2005, U.S. agricultural producers sold some $200 million worth of products to Panama," Johanns says. "Under this agreement, more than half of all current U.S. farm exports to Panama will become duty-free immediately, including high quality beef, mechanically de-boned chicken, turkey, pork variety meats, whey, soybeans, crude vegetable oils, cotton, wheat, barley, most fresh fruits, almonds, walnuts and many processed foods such as soups, chocolate confectionary, distilled spirits, wines and pet food."
Panama is also revising its regulations for food safety inspection to recognize the U.S. food safety inspection system for meat, poultry and processed foods as equivalent to Panama's own system, and will recognize the U.S. beef grading system.
"Expanding access to the Panamanian market and increasing our two-way trade will strengthen our economic ties and promote increased stability in the Western Hemisphere," Johanns says.