Local companies to explore future trade opportunities at business forum

The Office of the United States Trade Representative has accepted Tampa’s offer to host the next round of free trade negotiations between the United States and Panama in Tampa, August 9-13, 2004.

Tampa will serve as the fourth site for the negotiations. Previous events rotated between Panama and Los Angeles. Tampa was considered an ideal location because it is the closest major US port to the Central American nation, and it is a political bellwether for Florida business and politics.

The five-day series of meetings will include a business forum, hosted by the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce’s Committee of One Hundred, for US business executives and their Panamanian counterparts to meet and discuss potential trade opportunities. The business forum will take place August 9 and topics of discussion will include port opportunities, knowledge-based services and public sector procurement. The Business Forum will feature speakers from both the US and Panama including Romel Adames, Vice Minister of Trade, Panama; Regina Vargo, Assistant US Trade Representative for the Americas (USTR); Mayor Pam Iorio, City of Tampa; Congressman Jim Davis, US House of Representatives, 11th District; and Joe Ritzman, SSA International.

“The business opportunities between Tampa Bay and Panama as well as other Latin American countries are extensive. Tampa’s selection to host the next round of negotiations is a clear indication that others recognize this area as a competitive international player and a business gateway to Latin America,” said John Ramil, chair of the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce, and president and chief operating officer of TECO Energy, Inc.

Major sponsors of the event include the City of Tampa, Florida FTAA, Inc. and the Tampa Bay Partnership, with supporting contributions from the State of Florida, Enterprise Florida, Hillsborough County, the Tampa Port Authority, Tucker/Hall, and URS Corp.