US says no deadline yet for Panama, Colombia deal

US says no deadline yet for Panama, Colombia deals

Tuesday, July 06 2010 @ 04:17 PM EDT
Contributed by: Don Winner
Views: 52
WASHINGTON, July 6 (Reuters) – President Barack Obama wants to win congressional approval of free trade deals with Panama and Colombia but has not set a deadline for resolving problems with the pacts, the top U.S. trade official said on Tuesday. “These free trade agreements are almost entirely to the benefit of American exporters and do represent collectively several billion dollars of opportunities,” U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk told reporters after a meeting of Obama’s Export Promotion Cabinet. “We’re going to do everything we can to bring them forward as soon as it makes sense to do so,” Kirk said. But there is no specific timetable for resolving labor and other concerns with the agreements and sending them to Congress for a vote, Kirk said. “Hopefully we can come up with a more definitive timeline on those in the near future as well,” Kirk said.
Last month at the Group of 20 summit in Toronto, President Barack Obama said he wanted to fix problems blocking approval of a free trade agreement with South Korea by November, when Seoul will host the next G20 summit. Obama also said he planned to send the Korea agreement to Congress for a vote by early 2011. Kirk explained that last month’s meeting in Toronto was a good time for Obama to announce a deadline for the South Korea agreement because “you had the practical circumstance of the president being at the G-20 meeting with South Korean President Lee (Myung-bak) and his pending visit in November, his state visit as well as the G-20 visit.”

“As you know, we’ve always said that the substance of our work with Panama and Colombia would drive those,” Kirk added. Obama’s decision to try to resolve beef and auto trade issues blocking the Korea agreement has split Democrats ahead of November congressional elections. While some like House of Representatives Majority Leader Steny Hoyer have welcomed the move, others like Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown have called it a mistake. All three agreements were negotiated by former President George W. Bush’s administration and having been sitting on Obama’s desk since he took office in January 2009.

U.S. farm and business groups say the Canadian parliament’s recent ratification of a free trade pact with Colombia makes it urgent the United States act soon. The Canada-Colombia free trade agreement “means that U.S. wheat producers could lose sales worth $70 million today to Canada at a time when they can least afford it,” the heads of the U.S. Wheat Associates and the Natonal Association of Wheat Growers said in a joint statement.

Democratic opponents have been pushing Colombia to do more to reduce killings of trade unionists and prosecute those responsible for thousands of murders. They also want changes to Panama’s labor and bank secrecy laws and other reforms.

Editor’s Comment: This FTA was first killed by the election of Pedro Miguel Gonzalez, a fugitive from justice in the United States who is wanted as a terrorist in the assassination of US Army Sergeant Zak Hernandez, as the President of the National Assembly on 1 September 2007. At that point the FTA had just recently been signed by both sides and quickly ratified by the Panamanian National Assembly. It’s acceptance by the US Senate was supposed to be practically a done deal as well. But when Pedro Miguel Gonzalez was elected in Panama the FTA hit a brick wall. There was no way in hell lawmakers in the United States were going to approve anything after that slap in the face. Then shortly thereafter the political season heated up with the November 2008 election, and partisan politics further stalled approval in the US. Democratic lawmakers didn’t want to approve anything negotiated and signed by the Bush administration. And now Obama is trying to do something (anything) to stem the bleeding while facing the midterm elections in November. He could just wait until after the elections and watch as the new Republican senate approves the FTA in relative light speed. In any case, the prospects for the FTA seem to be ticking up again, slightly. And by the way, Panama isn’t going to change a word – either the US approves it as it’s written, or forget it.

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Petaquilla Producing 6,000 Ounces of Gold Per Month

Tuesday, July 06 2010 @ 03:20 PM EDT
Contributed by: Don Winner
Views: 70
The business prospects for Petaquilla Gold keep getting brighter, since the government of Ricardo Martinelli approved operating permits that had been pending for more than three years. The company reported that since it began commercial production of gold in January 2010 they have removed an average of 6,000 ounces of gold per month, which they have sold at prices ranging from $945 to $1,145 per ounce. Through June 2010 sales figures totaled more than $36 million dollars – an average of 6,000 ounces of gold sold per month at an average of about $1,000 per ounce – reduced by operating costs of $21 million dollars. According to the company, the cost of producing each ounce of gold is $600. But the mine has not been able to shake off the rejection of environmental groups which have expressed doubts about the manner in which the government quickly approved permits for gold mining. On 18 November 2009, the Ministry of Commerce and Industry (Mici) approved the commercial operating permit for Petaquilla Minerals after a renegotiation of the contract and strange restructuring of the Board of Directors of the company that ended with the withdrawal of Richard Fifer. On that same date the ANAM issued a statement saying Petaquilla Gold had complied with all outstanding payments, and that there were no additional studies pending.
For the National Association for the Conservation of Nature (Ancon) the approval of both institutions is “very suspicious.” This is because ANAM Resolution Number 809, issued on 26 January 2008, placed as a provision for the approval of the Environmental Impact Study for this project the submission of five additional studies, as well as a provision requiring a deposit of $10 million dollars as a guarantee against environmental damages, as well as another for $4.3 million dollars. In all there were 49 prerequisites established in resolution 809. However, the company has its own explanation to the doubts that arise and why there is no record of their compliance with the new requirements.

Rodrigo Esquivel, the manager of Petaquilla Gold, said the company notified the Anam that they would “not undertake the other works that required additional studies.” Esquivel said the company did present the two new bonds and stressed that as evidence that they have complied with all of the requirements of Resolution 809 is that on 13 May 2010 ANAM certified that the mine is in compliance with all mitigation measures. He added that on 25 May 2010 MICI also certified that they are properly managing cyanide and that water quality is at acceptable levels.

In contrast, business and Anam are in a dispute over two fines applied during the previous administration for damages to the environment. The head of legal department of Anam, Carmen Urriola, said that due to the lack of a final court decision in the case, they have not been able to proceed with the recovery of the two sanctions for $1.9 million dollars. However, Urriola revealed that Anam is opening a new administrative process against the mine for the same causes: breaches of environmental measures. (La Prensa)

Editor’s Comment: Even though Petaquilla has been producing gold now for more than six months, the stock price today (ptqmf.ob) is down to 31 cents per share. In early January 2010 when they first started commercial production, the stock price was as high as 94 cents per share. That price per share has steadily declined over the past six months, seemingly flying in the face of all reason and logic. Obviously Petaquilla’s goal is to continue to produce at least 6,000 ounces or more per month, while reducing their per ounce production costs down as far as possible, and it’s capable of going down to much less than $600 per ounce. Right now gold is at $1,192 per ounce. I still think this company is flying below the radar of everyone except those who actively seek out gold stocks, and that sooner or later the numbers will “flip” in the company’s favor. They had to invest a lot of money to build the mine and to get it operational, so their first profits will actually be going to pay off existing debt. They are still about $70 million dollars in debt, a situation that will steadily improve over time now that they are actually producing gold and making money. And, I still feel that this stock is now at a bargain basement price. I expect that sooner or later the stock price will rebound sharply. You can play with the numbers yourself. Balance ounces produced per month, subtract per ounce production cost to get profit per ounce, multiply times the value of gold at any time. For example if Petaquilla can get their monthly production up to 8,000 ounces per month, if they can get their production costs down to $400 per ounce, and if gold prices stay at around $1,200 per ounce, that would mean 8,000 ounces with $800 per ounce profit, or $6.4 million dollars per month. Obviously this number would go up or down with the modification of any of the variables. However, if they can start cranking out $6.4 million per month profit they could pay off their existing $70 in debt in less than one year if they wanted to. Sooner or later this stock goes nuts. I know I’ve been saying that for years, and I still think it’s true and real. I’m just being patient. It’s your play money so make your own smart and well informed decisions.

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