Guest blog b y Francisco Sánchez, Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade
Today I am honored to be speaking at the Association of American Chambers of Commerce at the Latin America Conference in Cartagena, Columbia. I shared with the hundreds of participants that the United States will continue its decades-long effort to increase economic integration throughout Latin America, including the passage and implementation of pending trade agreements with Colombia and Panama.
Latin America is our fastest-growing export market. The United States exports three times as much to Latin America as we do to China. We enjoy significant bilateral trading relationships with most of the countries in the region, and exports to these countries will soon support more than two million U.S. jobs.
Currently, 84 percent of U.S. trade within Latin America is covered by free trade agreements. Passage and implementation of new trade agreements with Colombia and Panama is an Obama administration priority for 2011, and are expected to support tens of thousands of jobs in America.
President Obama has made his commitment to the free trade agreements with Panama and Colombia clear because he believes that the future of the United States is inextricably bound to the future of the people of the Americas.
Panama is one of the fastest-growing economies in Latin America, expanding 6.2 percent in 2010, with similar annual growth forecast through 2015. Exports of U.S. goods to Colombia are expected to increase by more than $1.1 billion once the agreement is fully implemented.
Initiatives such as Pathways to Prosperity and the Americas Competitiveness Forum – two important programs supported by the Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration – are critical to improving economic integration that will benefit every nation in the Western Hemisphere.
Trade between countries in the Western Hemisphere is important to all of us, supporting millions of jobs and bettering the lives of our people.