11 August 2009
Prime Minister Stephen Harper issued the following statement at the conclusion of negotiations on a Canada-Panama free trade agreement:
"Thank you Mr. President – to you and all Panamanians for being such gracious hosts.
"It is truly a great honour to be here – I am proud to say this is the first official visit of a Canadian Prime Minister to your beautiful country.
"This visit comes at an important time for both our countries.
"It is a time when together we face the great challenges of a global recession, a time when it is more important than ever for like-minded friends and allies - like Panama and Canada - to renew our ties and work together.
"Mr. President, allow me to offer my congratulations on your recent election.
"I was pleased to note that in your inaugural address, you spoke plainly about your new government’s commitment to trade liberalization.
"You talked about the need, especially during these difficult times, to open doors to neighbours and allies.
"I couldn’t agree more.
"We must remember that the prosperity generated around the world in the last part of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st has been unprecedented in human history.
"Removing protectionist barriers and easing trade restrictions helped to usher in this extraordinary era.
"That’s why I’m so pleased, Mr. President, that you and I are here today, to mark a historic milestone in Canada-Panama relations - the conclusion of free trade negotiations between our countries.
"This agreement will lead to greatly expanded trade opportunities for Canada and Panama.
"Mr. President, I was particularly pleased to see that your government has decided to reopen Panama’s market to Canadian beef exports.
"Today’s historic agreement builds on our government’s record of aggressively pursuing trade liberalization with like-minded partners.
"In this hemisphere we have signed free trade agreements with Peru and Colombia, and we are currently pursuing free trade agreements with CARICOM, countries of Central America and Dominican Republic.
"Beyond our hemisphere, we have signed free trade agreements with the European Free Trade Association and Jordan, and we are negotiating agreements with South Korea and the European Union.
"Ladies and gentlemen, as we continue to face the effects of this global recession, promoting free and open trade benefits us all.
"The agreement between Canada and Panama can be a model for other nations to follow, a testament to the friendship between our two great countries, and signify our determination to cooperate in securing a brighter future for our citizens.
"Mr. President, yours is a country uniquely positioned astride two oceans, an economic corridor linking east and west, a nation rooted in a rich history and poised to embrace a bright future.
"Thank you for your leadership in partnering with Canada, and thank you for your warm welcome here in Panama."