The Senate Finance Committee held a hearing Thursday on the U.S. – Panama Trade Promotion Agreement. The agreement has had its critics, but in his opening statement, Senator Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said those critics "would rather we not implement any of our pending trade agreements with Panama, Colombia, and South Korea."
Grassley pushed for timely implementation of the trade agreement, something he said is long overdue. Grassley disputed what he called the false premise that trade agreements translate into trade deficits.
Assistant United States Trade Representative Everett Eissenstat addressed the committee hearing and said the administration has been working with Panama to address labor law concerns. He said he expects that Panama would soon put forth legislative and regulatory action that fully captures the intent and values of the agreement's labor provisions.
One aspect of the economic relationship with Panama that has come under scrutiny is the absence of a Tax Information Exchange Agreement between the two countries. Eissenstat said those issues are being worked on with Panama.
"We believe this agreement, and the closer relationship it provides, will enable us to progress much more quickly in addressing these concerns that we could otherwise do," Eissenstat said.