Search

 

Cablegate: New Trade Minister Focused On Tpa and Continuity

VZCZCXYZ0027
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHZP #0329/01 1161627
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 251627Z APR 08
FM AMEMBASSY PANAMA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 1979
INFO RUEHZA/WHA CENTRAL AMERICAN COLLECTIVE
RUEHBO/AMEMBASSY BOGOTA 2680
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RUEHRC/DEPT OF AGRICULTURE WASHDC
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHDC
RHMFIUU/DEPT OF ENERGY WASHINGTON DC
RUEHC/DEPT OF LABOR WASHDC
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHDC
RHEHAAA/NSC WASHDC

NCLAS PANAMA 000329

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR WHA/CEN - TELLO
ALSO FOR WHA/EPSC - SHAPIRO AND SALAZAR
STATE PASS TO USTR - D. OLIVER
USDOC - M. GAISFORD
TREASURY - S. GRAY

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ETRD ECON ENRG EWWT PGOV PM
SUBJECT: NEW TRADE MINISTER FOCUSED ON TPA AND CONTINUITY

REF: PANAMA 0233

This message is Sensitive but Unclassified. Please Handle
Accordingly.

1. (SBU) Summary: Minister of Commerce & Industry Carmen
Gisela Vergara is focused on securing U.S. ratification of
the U.S. Panama Trade Promotion Agreement (TPA). She was
confident that Pedro Miguel Gonzalez (PMG) will exit as
Panama's National Assembly President in September and expects
the GOP would implement necessary changes on labor matters
only after the U.S. ratifies the TPA. Vergara has also
reached out to major prospective U.S. investors, including
Occidental Petroleum and Ports America, to reassure them of
her intent to continue with the trade and investment policies
pursued by ex-Minister Alejandro Ferrer. Panamanian business
leaders and U.S. investors were pleased with Torrijos' choice
of Vergara. End summary.

Vergara: GOP to Fix Labor Issues post-TPA Ratification
--------------------------------------------- ---------

2. (SBU) Newly-minted Minister of Commerce & Industry Carmen
Gisela Vergara told Ambassador on April 18 that she was
focused on continuing with the trade and investment agenda
that the GOP had pursued under ex-Minister Alejandro Ferrer.
She said her top priority is to secure U.S. ratification of
the Trade Promotion Agreement (TPA). Acknowledging that
Panama must still address lingering USG concerns on labor
issues, she said the GOP had drafted the executive decrees
necessary to do so but would carry them out as part of the
implementation process once the U.S. ratifies the TPA.
Vergara maintained that doing so absent U.S. ratification
could otherwise "detonate" problems with business and labor
groups. She noted that, ironically, some of the groups that
had previously opposed the TPA had come around on trade and
are now clamoring for the GOP to push harder for its
ratification by the U.S.

3. (SBU) Vergara said that the GOP and Panamanian business
leaders were anxious to "get the ball rolling again" on
Panama's TPA, noting that the Panama Chamber of Commerce
might organize a September 2008 event in Washington to get
Panama back on Washington's radar. However, Vergara was
quick to recognize the obstacles posed by the presence of
Pedro Miguel Gonzalez (PMG) as Panama's National Assembly
President and the current imbroglio in Washington over the
Colombia deal. She said she was "99.999 percent sure" that
PMG would be replaced as Assembly President come September.
She believed that PMG had already decided against seeking a
second year at the Assembly's helm owing to his need to focus
on winning re-election from his district in the interior.
She expected a long line of would-be PMG replacements would
emerge in July-August, as the upcoming legislative year could
be their "last chance" to win the title of Assembly
President.

Vergara Promises Continuity for U.S. Investors
--------------------------------------------- -

4. (SBU) Vergara visited Los Angeles, CA in early April to
reassure key prospective U.S. investors of her commitment to
continuing Ferrer's policies. She told Occidental Petroleum
executives that their proposed $8 billion refinery in western
Panama remained a "top priority" for the GOP. She said Oxy
and its partner, Qatar Petroleum (QP), will visit Panama in
mid-May to begin negotiating the text of a "contract law" the
GOP would put forward once Oxy and QP complete their costing
studies (likely in August) and decide to proceed. Oxy execs
told Econ Chief on April 17 that they were pleased with
Vergara's presence as Minister and the GOP's handling thus
far of the project.

5. (SBU) President Torrijos also tasked Vergara with leading
the GOP's direct negotiations for a $400-500 million
"megaport" with a Ports America/Cosco joint venture. (The
two firms were the last two remaining in the GOP's earlier
public bidding process for a major container terminal to be
developed near the Pacific entrance to the Panama Canal. As
the two opted to pursue the project through a joint venture,
the GOP abandoned the licitation and decided in early April
to negotiate a direct deal with them.) Ports America
executives told Econ Chief on April 17 that they, too, were
pleased with their meeting in Los Angeles with Vergara. They
believed the continuity she offers avoided what otherwise
might have been a six-month delay following Ferrer's
departure.

Comment:
--------

6. (SBU) Given the other prospects for Ferrer's replacement
(reftel), Panamanian business leaders and foreign investors
were gratified, if not relieved, at Torrijos' choice of
Vergara. As Vice Minister, she enjoyed a reputation as
honest and hard-working. A friend of Ferrer's since
childhood (she considered him "like a big brother"), Vergara
appears highly committed to seeing his trade and investment
agenda through to the end of the Torrijos Administration's
term (Sept. 2009). Her confidence about PMG's possible exit
as Assembly President echoes similar statements we have heard
in recent weeks from other top GOP officials, but does not
appear based on any first-hand discussions with PMG. End
comment.

(SBU) Biography - Carmen Gisela Vergara
---------------------------------------

Carmen Gisela Vergara is a lawyer who graduated from the
University of Panama with a degree in Law and Political
Science. She earned a Masters in Economic Law at the
Universidad del Externado in Bogota, Colombia; a Masters in
Private Law from the University of Panama; and a Certificate
in International Commercial Negotiations from the University
of Santiago, Chile. She also studied Foreign Investment
Promotion at the World Bank. Vergara has presented numerous
advanced training courses and seminars on foreign investment
promotion, the promotion of exports, foreign trade,
entrepreneurship, business plan development, leadership,
motivation, and team-building.

Vergara has worked in both the public and private sectors in
different capacities, such as: Judge Executor, Executive
Sub-Director of the National Commission for Investment
Promotion "Pro Panama," National Director for Promotion of
Production and Investment of the Vice Ministry of Foreign
Trade, and Manager of the Business Technology Accelerator at
the City of Knowledge's "International Tecnopark." She
served for five years as Panama's Alternate Representative
before the OAS' Inter-American Commission on Women and was a
member of the OAS' Non-Permanent Specialized Committees.
Vergara is an arbitrator at Panama's Center for Conciliation
and Arbitration, a member of the National Bar Association,
and the National Union of Lawyers. She also served as
Assistant Professor for International Trade Negotiations in
the Global MBA programs of the Tecnologico de Monterrey and
the Thunderbird School of Global Management.

Vergara is a single mother of an adolescent daughter. She
spent a portion of her high school years as an exchange
student in Kentucky and speaks English fluently. Although
she is not flashy, Vergara is highly regarded by Panamanian
business leaders as an honest, hardworking professional. In
late 2007, the Panama Chamber of Commerce approached her to
run a new think tank, but she declined, apparently in
anticipation of her possible rise to succeed Alejandro Ferrer.
EATON

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
World Headlines

 

Werewolf: Gordon Campbell On North Korea, Neo-Nazism, And Milo

With a bit of luck the planet won’t be devastated by nuclear war in the next few days. US President Donald Trump will have begun to fixate on some other way to gratify his self-esteem – maybe by invading Venezuela or starting a war with Iran. More>>

Victory Declared: New Stabilisation Funding From NZ As Mosul Is Retaken

New Zealand has congratulated the Iraqi government on the successful liberation of Mosul from ISIS after a long and hard-fought campaign. More>>

Gordon Campbell: On The Current US Moves Against North Korea

If Martians visited early last week, they’d probably be scratching their heads as to why North Korea was being treated as a potential trigger for global conflict... More>>

ALSO:

Gordon Campbell: On The Lessons From Corbyn’s Campaign

Leaving partisan politics aside – and ignoring Jeremy Corbyn’s sensational election campaign for a moment – it has to be said that Britain is now really up shit creek... More>>

ALSO:

Another US Court: Fourth Circuit Rules Muslim Ban Discriminatory

ACLU: Step by step, point by point, the court laid out what has been clear from the start: The president promised to ban Muslims from the United States, and his executive orders are an attempt to do just that. More>>

ALSO: