Office of the United States Trade Representative.
Notice of intent to initiate negotiations on a free trade agreement between the United States and the Republic of Panama, request for comments, and notice of public hearing.
The United States intends to initiate negotiations with the Republic of Panama on a free trade agreement (FTA). The interagency Trade Policy Start Printed Page 8519Staff Committee (TPSC) will convene a public hearing and seek public comment to assist the United States Trade Representative (USTR) in amplifying and clarifying negotiating objectives for the proposed agreement and to provide advice on how specific goods and services and other matters should be treated under the proposed agreement.
Persons wishing to testify orally at the hearing must provide written notification of their intention, as well as their testimony, by March 16, 2004. A hearing will be held in Washington, DC beginning on March 23, 2004, and will continue as necessary on subsequent days. Written comments are due by noon, April 5, 2004.
Submissions by electronic mail: FR0413@ustr.gov (notice of intent to testify and written testimony); FR0414@ustr.gov (written comments). Submissions by facsimile: Gloria Blue, Executive Secretary, Trade Policy Staff Committee, at (202) 395-6143. The public is strongly encouraged to submit documents electronically rather than by facsimile. (See requirements for submissions below.)Start Further Info
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:
For procedural questions concerning written comments or participation in the public hearing, contact Gloria Blue, Executive Secretary, Trade Policy Staff Committee, at (202) 395-3475. All other questions should be directed to Andrea Gash Durkin, Director for Central America and the Caribbean, (202) 395-6135 or James Wolfe, Coordinator for Central American FTA Negotiation and Outreach, (202) 395-9628.End Further Info End Preamble Start Supplemental Information
Under section 2104 of the Bipartisan Trade Promotion Authority Act of 2002 (TPA Act) (19 U.S.C. 3804), for agreements that will be approved and implemented through TPA procedures, the President needs to provide the Congress with at least 90 days written notice of his intent to enter into negotiations and identify the specific objectives for the negotiations. Before and after the submission of this notice, the President is to consult with appropriate Congressional committees and the Congressional Oversight Group regarding the negotiations. Under the Trade Act of 1974, as amended, the President must (i) afford interested persons an opportunity to present their views regarding any matter relevant to any proposed agreement, (ii) designate an agency or inter-agency committee to hold a public hearing regarding any proposed agreement, and (iii) seek the advice of the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) regarding the probable economic effects on U.S. industries and consumers of the removal of tariffs and non-tariff barriers on imports pursuant to any proposed agreement.
On November 18, 2003, after consulting with relevant Congressional committees and the Congressional Oversight Group, the USTR notified the Congress that the President intends to initiate free trade agreement negotiations with the Republic of Panama and identified specific objectives for the negotiations. In addition, the USTR has requested the ITC's probable economic effects advice. The ITC intends to provide this advice on April 8, 2004. This notice solicits views from the public on these negotiations and provides information on a hearing which will be conducted pursuant to the requirements of the Trade Act of 1974.
2. Public Comments and Testimony
To assist the Administration as it continues to develop its negotiating objectives for the proposed agreement, the Chairman of the TPSC invites written comments and/or oral testimony of interested persons at a public hearing. Comments and testimony may address the reduction or elimination of tariffs or non-tariff barriers on any articles provided for in the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS) that are products of Panama, any concession which should be sought by the United States, or any other matter relevant to the proposed agreement. The TPSC invites comments and testimony on all of these matters and, in particular, seeks comments and testimony addressed to:
(a) General and commodity-specific negotiating objectives for the proposed agreement.
(b) Economic costs and benefits to U.S. producers and consumers of removal of tariffs and non-tariff barriers to U.S.-Panama trade.
(c) Treatment of specific goods (described by Harmonized System tariff numbers) under the proposed agreement, including comments on:
(1) Product-specific import or export interests or barriers,
(2) Experience with particular measures that should be addressed in the negotiations, and
(3) In the case of articles for which immediate elimination of tariffs is not appropriate, a recommended staging schedule for such elimination.
(d) Adequacy of existing customs measures to ensure Panamanian origin of imported goods, and appropriate rules of origin for goods entering the United States under the proposed agreement.
(e) Existing Panamanian sanitary and phytosanitary measures and technical barriers to trade.
(f) Existing barriers to trade in services between the United States and Panama that should be addressed in the negotiations.
(g) Relevant trade-related intellectual property rights issues that should be addressed in the negotiations.
(h) Relevant investment issues that should be addressed in the negotiations.
(i) Relevant government procurement issues that should be addressed in the negotiations.
(j) Relevant electronic commerce issues that should be addressed in the negotiations.
(k) Relevant environmental issues that should be addressed in the negotiations.
(l) Relevant labor issues that should be addressed in the negotiations.
Comments identifying as present or potential trade barriers laws or regulations that are not primarily trade-related should address the economic, political and social objectives of such regulations and the degree to which they discriminate against producers of the other country. At a later date, the USTR, through the TPSC, will publish notice of reviews regarding (a) the possible environmental effects of the proposed agreement and the scope of the U.S. environmental review of the proposed agreement, and (b) the impact of the proposed agreement on U.S. employment and labor markets.
A hearing will be held on March 23, 2004, in Rooms 1 and 2, 1724 F Street, NW., Washington, DC. If necessary, the hearing will continue on subsequent days. Persons wishing to testify at the hearing must provide written notification of their intention by March 16, 2004. The notification should include: (1) The name, address, and telephone number of the person presenting the testimony; and (2) a short (one or two paragraph) summary of the presentation, including the subject matter and, as applicable, the product(s) (with HTSUS numbers), service sector(s), or other subjects (such as investment, intellectual property and/or government procurement) to be discussed. A copy of the testimony must accompany the notification. Remarks at the hearing should be limited to no more than five minutes to allow for possible questions from the TPSC. Persons with mobility impairments who will need special assistance in gaining access to the hearing should contact the TPSC Executive Secretary. Start Printed Page 8520
Interested persons, including persons who participate in the hearing, may submit written comments by noon, April 5, 2004. Written comments may include rebuttal points demonstrating errors of fact or analysis not pointed out in the hearing. All written comments must state clearly the position taken, describe with particularity the supporting rationale, and be in English. The first page of written comments must specify the subject matter, including, as applicable, the product(s) (with HTSUS numbers), service sector(s), or other subjects (such as investment, intellectual property and/or government procurement).
3. Requirements for Submissions
In order to facilitate prompt processing of submissions, the Office of the United States Trade Representative strongly urges and prefers electronic (e-mail) submissions in response to this notice. In the event that an e-mail submission is impossible, submissions should be made by facsimile.
Persons making submissions by e-mail should use the following subject line: “United States—Panama Free Trade Agreement” followed by (as appropriate) “Notice of Intent to Testify,” “Testimony,” or “Written Comments.” Documents should be submitted as either WordPerfect, MSWord, or text (.TXT) files. Supporting documentation submitted as spreadsheets are acceptable as Quattro Pro or Excel. For any document containing business confidential information submitted electronically, the file name of the business confidential version should begin with the characters “BC-”, and the file name of the public version should begin with the characters “P-”. The “P-” or “BC-” should be followed by the name of the submitter. Persons who make submissions by e-mail should not provide separate cover letters; information that might appear in a cover letter should be included in the submission itself. To the extent possible, any attachments to the submission should be included in the same file as the submission itself, and not as separate files.
Written comments, notice of testimony, and testimony will be placed in a file open to public inspection pursuant to 15 CFR 2003.5, except business confidential information exempt from public inspection in accordance with 15 CFR 2003.6. Business confidential information submitted in accordance with 15 CFR 2003.6 must be clearly marked “Business Confidential” at the top of each page, including any cover letter or cover page, and must be accompanied by a nonconfidential summary of the confidential information. All public documents and nonconfidential summaries shall be available for public inspection in the USTR Reading Room. The USTR Reading Room is open to the public, by appointment only, from 10 a.m. to 12 noon and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday. An appointment to review the file must be scheduled at least 48 hours in advance and may be made by calling (202) 395-6186.
General information concerning the Office of the United States Trade Representative may be obtained by accessing its Internet Web site (http://www.ustr.gov).Start Signature
Chairman, Trade Policy Staff Committee.
[FR Doc. 04-3872 Filed 2-23-04; 8:45 am]
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