Panama and Colombia Suspend Negotiations on FTA without Setting New Date
By Dialogo October 29, 2010Panama and Colombia suspended negotiations on 27 October on a bilateral free-trade agreement (FTA), due to the fact that “complex” issues remain unresolved, officials from both countries said without announcing a date for the resumption of talks.
“We’ve concluded that the most prudent thing to do at the moment is to suspend the process of negotiations between Panama and Colombia,” said the Panamanian deputy trade minister and chief negotiator, Francisco Álvarez de Soto.
The fifth round of negotiations began on 25 October in the Panamanian capital and had been expected to conclude on 29 October.
“We’ve reached a moment of the suspension of negotiations, something that frankly represents a challenge for the future,” declared the chief Colombian negotiator, Santiago Pardo.
Prior to the present, 21 of the 25 issues under negotiation have been closed, but major stumbling-blocks remain, such as access to markets for agricultural and industrial products.
Panamanian organizations of beef, pork, milk, corn, and textile producers fear an invasion of Colombian products, while Colombian business believes that part of the smuggling that disadvantages its producers comes from the foreign-trade zone of the Panamanian city of Colón.
“We have to be very sure that everyone is adequately taken care of in the final balance and conclusion of a treaty,” Álvarez de Soto told Panamanian state television channel SerTV.
“There are issues remaining that are complex, and logically, decisions, evaluations, and reflection are needed on both sides,” Pardo said.
Colombia and Panama began to negotiate the treaty at the beginning of 2010, expecting to finish in a maximum of four rounds.
In 2009, Colombia exported 258.3 million dollars in goods to Panama, while imports from that country came to 15.7 million dollars.