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Cablegate: Staffdel Meacham and Toon Meet with Fm Lewis

VZCZCXYZ0002
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHZP #2103/01 2991513
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 261513Z OCT 06
FM AMEMBASSY PANAMA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 9228
INFO RUEHZA/WHA CENTRAL AMERICAN COLLECTIVE
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC
RHMFISS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC
RUEKJCS/OSD WASHDC
RHMFISS/CDR USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL//J5/J2/POLAD//

UNCLAS PANAMA 002103

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE PASS TO USTR

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL ETRD PM
SUBJECT: STAFFDEL MEACHAM AND TOON MEET WITH FM LEWIS


-------
Summary
-------

1. (SBU) Passage of the U.S.-Panama Free Trade Agreement
(FTA) was key to deepening the bilateral relationship and
facilitating cooperation in security issues, First Vice
President and Foreign Minister Samuel Lewis told Meacham and
Toon October 18. Lewis discussed strategies to shore up
Congressional support for the FTA. Lewis also lamented the
prospect of significant reductions in USG democracy and
capacity-building assistance programs, calling such treatment
by a strategic partner "ridiculous." Vice Foreign Minister
Ricardo Duran, Ambassador William Eaton and PolOfficer also
participated. End summary.

---
FTA
---

2. (SBU) Lewis highlighted the importance of the FTA to the
bilateral relationship, emphasizing that the FTA would impact
the relationship beyond the trade arena, especially in the
"U.S.-Panama strategic alliance." The FTA would bring more
segments of Panamanian society into the alliance, deepening
and broadening the relationship, Lewis said. The FTA would
thus make other areas of cooperation easier, especially in
security issues including intelligence, counternarcotics, and
counterterrorism, he added.

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3. (SBU) Lewis discussed ways to increase the chances of the
FTA's passage in Congress. He agreed that linking the
Panamanian FTA with those of other countries like Colombia or
Peru would be a mistake. He emphasized the need to build up
the national security elements of the FTA, adding that this
aspect was unique to Panama and would gain votes from
otherwise wary legislators. As an example, Lewis said that
Panama enjoyed a good relationship with the Congressional
Black Caucus; some members who normally voted against free
trade agreements nonetheless understood and accepted the
national security argument in support of an FTA with Panama.
Furthermore, the FTA may be easier to sell because Panama
does not pose a threat in terms of U.S. job displacement or
flooding the U.S. market, said Lewis.

4. (SBU) Lewis agreed with the suggestion to focus on
Senators who had an interest in Latin America, including
possibly Senators Grassley, Baucus, and Bingham, and Senator
Leahy. Lewis suggested inviting members of Congress to visit
Panama or possibly sending the Panamanian Ambassador in the
United States out to visit the home states of key Senators.
He said Panama had a special relationship with many Members
of Congress who still remembered passing the 1977
Carter-Torrijos treaty. Lewis said he understood the
importance of keeping the FTA a nonpartisan issue and the
need to ratify the agreement quickly in Panama to demonstrate
the country's commitment and interest.

----------------------------------------
Security Cooperation and Public Outreach
----------------------------------------

5. (SBU) Panama considered the relationship with the United
States of the greatest importance, said Lewis, and saw itself
as a border state. The GOP was committed to a working
relationship with the United States that accounted for
Panama's position as a "border and transit" state. Panama
was very conscious of the role it needed to play in
counternarcotics, money laundering, terrorist financing, and
fighting all types of criminal activity, Lewis added.
However, the reality was that Panama lacked the necessary
resources for the kind of cooperation it would like to
develop, said Lewis. The two countries needed to focus on
areas of cooperation and funding that could be geared to
mutual interests.

6. (SBU) Lewis's main focus on security pushed beyond law
enforcement and into long-term programs and public diplomacy.
He emphasized the need to combine social impact activities
and the fight against crime, especially in remote areas with
limited government presence. There was no substitute for
human intelligence, said Lewis, and security forces could not
substitute for community workers who served the community
while gathering crucial information. Lewis questioned the
elimination of such capacity building programs and the focus
on law enforcement in current USG assistance. Such treatment
was "ridiculous," he said.

7. (U) This cable has been cleared by Carl Meacham and
Bernard Toon.

ARREAGA

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