Prime Minister Stephen Harper today witnessed the signing of the Canada-Panama Free Trade Agreement by the Honourable Peter Van Loan, Minister of International Trade, and Roberto Henríquez, Panama’s Minister of Commerce and Industry. Both Ministers also signed parallel agreements on Labour Cooperation and on the Environment.

“During my visit to Panama in August of last year, I had the pleasure of marking the conclusion of negotiations on this historic free trade deal with Panama’s President Ricardo Martinelli,” said Prime Minister Harper. “This agreement is another step towards building stronger ties with our partners in the Americas as we work together to generate more jobs and greater prosperity in Canada and in the hemisphere.”

Once implemented, the Canada-Panama Free Trade Agreement will provide opportunities for Canadian business by lowering tariffs on goods and removing other trade barriers. There will be benefits across a broad range of sectors, including for the Canadian construction, manufacturing and agriculture industries.

The Labour Cooperation Agreement commits Canada and Panama to respect the core labour standards set out by the International Labour Organization.

The Agreement on the Environment requires both parties to ensure high levels of environmental protection and the effective enforcement of domestic environmental laws while encouraging trade and investment.

Now that the agreements have been signed, both parties will seek legislative approval of the treaties, which will enter into force once each country’s domestic approval processes are completed.

Canadian merchandise exports to Panama totalled $91.4 million for 2009, a 52 per cent increase since 2005.