Panama Canal

A free trade agreement (FTA) has been signed by Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli this week, in a move that will see tariffs eliminated on over 90 per cent of Panama's imports from Canada and Panama having 100 per cent access to the Canadian market.

The deal, which is expected to be implemented in 2010, could see Panamanian exports to the Canadian market reaching a value of up to US$3.4m.

Major exports to the North American country include fresh produce such as bananas, melons and watermelons, as well as fish oil and fresh and processed seafood.

'The FTA builds an ample highway of exchange for portable products, for the goods we produce and the services we offer,' said President Martinelli at the signing of the deal.

And Prime Minister Harper added: 'Signing a free trade agreement with a key hemispheric partner like Panama is the logical next step in our policy of pursuing deeper integration and closer cooperation throughout the Americas.'

The move is the latest in a line of similar FTAs signed by Panama, with deals also agreed with Honduras, Costa Rica, Singapore, Taiwan, El Salvador, Dominican Republic, Nicaragua and Chile, while partial agreements have been signed with Colombia and Mexico.