Panama and Colombia began Monday the third round of talks for a free trade agreement (FTA), which is unlikely be completed before Colombian President Alvaro Uribe leaves power, according to Francisco Alvarez de Soto, Panama’s deputy minister for international trade negotiations.
The minister said that his country’s team would be satisfied if talks reach a stage where a fourth round is discussed.
“So this won’t necessarily be a closing round,” the negotiator said, adding that he was convinced that a deal would be sealed during the administration of Juan Manuel Santos, who takes the reins on August 7.
Nevertheless, the Panamanian official was optimistic about the negotiations’ progress so far. He revealed that the previous two rounds of talks had concluded certain chapters of the treaty, such as the preamble, competition policy, labor standards, and transparency.
Alvarez de Soto also noted that there had been significant progress in the run-up to these talks. He was hopeful about closing the environment and electronic commerce chapters, but he specified that this would depend on the parties’ flexibility. “We are confident that there will be more advances,” he said.
The third round of negotiations kicked off Monday in Panama City. The discussions will be divided into six topics: rules and procedures of origin, telecommunications, technical obstacles to trade, environment, investment, sanitary and phytosanitary regulations.