Panama suspends negotiations over a free trade agreement with Colombia, due to a failure to reach agreement over agricultural issues, market access and customs cooperation, Reuters reports.
The unexpected announcement came three days after the Colombian and Panamanian delegation met in Panama to begin the fifth round of negotiations.
“The government took the decision this morning to tell our Colombian colleagues that we consider it appropriate and relevant to suspend the negotiation process at this moment,” said Panama’s Deputy Trade Minister Francisco Alvarez de Soto.
Alvarez explained that the negotiations have reached a stage where sensitive issues need to be discussed which could be “offensive” to both parties and therefore the solution “is to invest more time” in such a process.
“Instead of forcing the close [of negotiations] or generating some kind of crisis… we believed what was responsible in this moment was to suspend the process,” Alvarez told Reuters.
The Colombian chief negotiator, Santiago Pardo, said that the suspension represents a “challenge to the future”, as there are outstanding issues that “are complex” which need to be discussed. These issues require “logical decisions, evaluations and reflections of both countries,” Pardo explained.
“This halt has to be seen in the light of a long-term relation and both countries need to make the best decision, so we have agreed with Panama on this decision,” Pardo added.