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US President Meets Panamanian Leader


U.S. President George Bush and Panamanian President Martin Torrijos say they will continue working toward a free trade agreement. VOA White House Correspondent Scott Stearns has the story.

President Bush says President Torrijos, who met with Mr. Bush at the White House Friday, is a visionary leader of a vital country with which the United States wants to expand commerce through a free trade agreement.

"I assure you that we will work, in good faith, to get an agreement done and I will call upon the United States Congress, both Republicans and Democrats, to support this deal which will help both nations," he said.

Following their Oval Office talks, President Torrijos said it is very satisfying to know that Latin America is still an important part of the Bush Administration's agenda.

"I'm very pleased and recognize your commitment for pushing the free trade agenda and trying to finish the free trade agreement with Panama and the rest of the Latin American countries," he said.

The United States is both the biggest supplier to and the biggest market for Panamanian goods, including bananas and sugar.

But it was Panamanian palm that was at the forefront of the presidents' talks as both men agreed to boost cooperation on using that plant to develop biofuels, including ethanol.

"I believe your capacity to make biofuels and our desire to use biofuels will make an interesting match as we work to become less dependent on oil and better stewards of the environment," President Torrijos said.

President Torrijos said the increased cooperation would make Panama less dependent on foreign oil and increase economic opportunities for Panamanian farmers.