The following article is from Bloomberg:
U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk said a free-trade agreement with Panama is ready to be considered by Congress after the nation’s leaders took actions sought by the Obama administration.
Kirk sent a letter to the Senate Finance and House Ways and Means committees saying he is ready to begin technical discussions on legislation for the agreement, according to a statement today. The U.S. and Panama today began exchanging tax information, a requirement by the U.S. for advancing the trade deal, the Treasury Department said in a separate statement.
“This is basically the administration saying ‘We have no more concerns with this agreement, we are ready to go,’” said Doug Goudie, director of international trade policy at the National Association of Manufacturers in Washington. “It’s an optimistic sign.”
Panama’s Congress last week ratified tax changes President Barack Obama’s administration said were necessary before legislators would consider the trade pact. The tax treaty will let both nations exchange information on bank accounts, a step sought by lawmakers such as Senator Carl Levin, a Michigan Democrat, before taking up the agreement.
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development lists Panama among nations that must share tax data or face sanctions as the Group of 20 cracks down on banking secrecy. Tax-information agreements, which let officials request details about citizens’ bank accounts in another nation, are needed to ensure that taxpayers have no place to hide their income and assets, the organization said in November.
Tax Exchange Accord
The U.S. began talks with Panama on a tax-exchange treaty in 2002. The agreement covers information since Nov. 30, 2007.
A free-trade agreement with South Korea is the biggest prize for U.S. companies among three pending deals, as trade with that nation topped $87 billion in 2010, compared with $28 billion for Colombia and $6.5 billion for Panama, according to U.S. Census Bureau data. The U.S. completed negotiations on labor-rights provisions in the Colombia deal this month.
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