Obama backs FTA

Written by Miami Herald Panama Edition

Wednesday, 30 July 2008

An adviser to Barack Obama, the presumptive Democratic nominee for the presidency of the United States, gave clear indications yesterday that the candidate will support a free trade agreement with Panama once Pedro Miguel González leaves the presidency of the Asamblea Nacional.

"He anticipates the possibility of moving [forward on the agreement] when that situation has changed," said Daniel Restrepo, director of the campaign's Latin American policy committee.

Senator Obama "has supported agreements with the kind of environmental protections and labor agreements that Panama now has," Restrepo added. Obama recently voted in favor of a trade agreement with Peru but against one with Central America (CAFTA). In a speech in May, the candidate explained that protection for workers was, in his eyes, the crucial difference between the two agreements.

Supporting the free trade agreement with Panama is one of the ways Obama and his team are seeking to their bolster Latino support.

Obama's campaign team announced yesterday that it plans to spend $20 million in an "historic and unprecedented" effort to capture the Latino vote in the presidential elections in November.

Panamanian Gladys Bernett, a member of the Democratic Party's Leadership Council, was one of the activists who gathered yesterday to launch the effort to woo Latino voters.