Panama official quits over free trade

Panama’s agricultural minister resigned yesterday "to sound off an alarm" over the potential effects of agricultural policy changes the U.S. is pushing on his country. 

Laurentino Cortizo said diminished regulations that are being negotiated could mean "catastrophic consequences of plagues and diseases" for Panama’s agricultural sector.

The changes would be part of a bilateral trade agreement between the countries, which has been stalled the past year due to these issues. Officials from both countries have restarted negotiations in Washington.

"Panama should not, under any circumstance, set the precedent of not applying our health inspection laws in force because another country wants to sell its products," Cortizo wrote in his resignation letter. "I am enormously concerned that the relaxing of health inspections puts at risk the health and life of Panamanians, the agricultural heritage of our country and the loss of current and potential business ties with other countries."