Saturday, May 30, 2009

Panama FTA will create US jobs

May 2009
5-21-09 Hearing on "The U.S.-Panama Trade Promotion Agreement"
To view this hearing click here.

Hearing on "The U.S. - Panama Trade Promotion Agreement"

May 21 , 2009, at 10:00 a.m., in 215 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Member Statements:
Max Baucus, MT
Charles Grassley, IA

Witness Statements:
The following witnesses are scheduled to testify:
The Honorable Everett Eissenstat, Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for Western Hemisphere Affairs, Washington, DC
Mr. James Owens, Chairman and CEO, Caterpillar, Peoria, IL
Ms. Thea Lee, Policy Director, American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), Washington, DC
Mr. Sam Carney, President-Elect of the National Pork Producers Council, Adair, IA


Panama and Protectionism

May 21 2009, 6:03 pm by Daniel Indiviglio

The Senate Finance Committee held a hearing today to discuss creating a NAFTA-like free trade agreement with Panama. As with every political issue, it has its opponents. But given the specifics concerning the U.S.'s current trade situation with Panama, this agreement seems like kind of a no-brainer.

The age-old protectionist argument against free-trade agreements was given by Thea Mei Lee, policy director of the AFL-CIO, at the hearing:
As long as we continue to run trade deficits on the order of five percent of GDP, the arguments that we need more trade liberalization to succeed in the global economy ring hollow - especially to our members, who have seen too many jobs go offshore while their wages and benefits stagnate.

Really? Because fellow panelists James Owens, Chairman and CEO, of Caterpillar and Mr. Sam Carney, President-Elect of the National Pork Producers Council who represent manufacturing and farming - the two industries supposedly hit hardest from free trade - both testified in favor of the agreement. They support the agreement because it will better facilitate the export of their products, produced by the hands of U.S. workers, to Panama.

Committee chairman Senator Max Baucus (D-Mont.) also supports the agreement. He did a good job of explaining why a free trade agreement with Panama in particular will benefit the U.S. and its workers:
The Panama agreement also provides new opportunities for American farmers, ranchers, and businesses. Panama already exports most of its goods to the United States duty-free under our trade preference programs. This trade agreement will level the playing field. It would provide the same duty-free treatment to our industrial and agriculture exports to Panama.

This agreement will, for example, immediately eliminate all duties on more than half of our agricultural exports to Panama. That includes high-quality American beef from states like Montana.

This agreement will also immediately eliminate tariffs on 80 percent of U.S. industrial exports to Panama.

The agreement provides U.S. manufacturers and farmers the opportunity to be more competitive when exporting goods to Panama. In other words, it would create U.S. jobs, not destroy them. Meanwhile, Panama will gain very little from the agreement, other than more U.S. imports, as most of its exports to the U.S. are already duty free.

That's why the National Association for Manufacturers also supports the agreement. I spoke to Frank Vargo, one of their trade experts, who is very frustrated that some people are convinced that free trade agreements cause the loss of U.S. jobs. He was kind enough to provide the following graph, based on Bureau of Labor Statistics, which shows manufacturing jobs falling before and growing after NAFTA was put into place.

He also says that the U.S.'s massive trade deficit (which the AFL-CIO complained about above) is mostly due to trade with non-free trade agreement countries like China and Japan. Of that deficit, the portion resulting from free trade partners is a small part, according to Vargo.

One big question mark in the free trade discussion is where the Obama administration stands. While its position is clear on many issues, trade is not one of them. But if today's committee hearing creates some momentum to get a Panama free-trade agreement through Congress, we may find out where the president stands soon enough.

Full text in

Pork Producers Urge to Pass Panama Trade Agreements

Washington, D.C, May 22 -

A U.S. trade agreement with Panama will provide new market opportunities for a wide range of American agricultural products, the National Pork Producers Council yesterday told a Senate committee, and it will level the playing field for U.S. pork producers and other food producers.

NPPC President-Elect Sam Carney, a pork producer from Adair, Iowa, testifying before the Senate Committee on Finance, noted that most products from Panama enter the United States at a zero tariff rate because of the Caribbean Basin Economic Recovery Act and the Generalized System of Preferences, while most U.S. agricultural products going to the Central American country are subject to an average tariff of 43 percent.

"Implementing the pending trade agreement with Panama will level the playing field so that U.S. producers and exporters of food and farm products receive reciprocal market access," said Carney. "It also will open to U.S. pork producers, other agricultural sectors and U.S. businesses a market of almost 3.4 million consumers."

U.S. pork exports to Panama currently are restricted by a small quota and out-of-quota duties as high as 80 percent. Under the Panama Trade Promotion Agreement, U.S. pork variety meats would receive immediate duty-free treatment, and the trade deal would expand market access for U.S. pork muscle meat through tariff rate quotas (TRQs). The TRQs will be phased out in 15 years, and when the agreement is fully implemented, U.S. pork will have unlimited duty-free access to the Panamanian market.

In addition to the favorable market access provisions, the agreement resolves significant sanitary and technical issues. Panama, for example, will recognize the meat inspection system of the United States as equivalent to its meat inspection system.

According to Iowa State University economist Dermot Hayes, the Panama trade agreement will add 20 cents to the price producers receive for each hog marketed, with pork exports to Panama expected to be worth about $23 million a year.

National Foreign Council (NFTC) Commends Senate Finance Committee for Holding Hearing on U.S.-Panama FTA

Consumer Electronics Association (CEA)® Urges Senate Action on U.S.-Panama Trade Pact

Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA) Applauds Senate Finance Committee for Pressing Forward on Panama Trade Agreement

Caterpillar Chairman Urges Passage of U.S.-Panama Trade Promotion Agreement =

Camp (R-MI), Brady (R-TX) Congratulate Senate Finance Committee for Holding Hearing on U.S.-Panama Trade Promotion Agreement

Obama Delays Panama Trade Pact After Unions Object (Update2)

US-Panama Free Trade Links

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

How to open an offshore bank account

Wednesday, 20 May 2009 14:51

Have you ever thought about opening an offshore account? It is not as difficult as you may imagine. You can do it in a relatively short period of time and without ever going abroad.

An offshore account will help you reduce your tax liability, get a higher return on your investments or simply keep your affairs private.

Essentially, an offshore account means a bank account in a foreign country. It offers benefits such as international access to your money, better protection of assets or a higher return on your investment no matter where you live.

If you are interested in opening an offshore bank account, follow these guidelines.

1. Choose a country for your offshore account. Banking rules vary from country to country, so you need some guarantee that your hard-earned money will be safe. Nowadays there are over 50 countries and territories that specialise in offshore activity. In the Cayman Islands, it is a popular joke that there are more banks than people.

2. If you don’t want to spend time searching through the various rules and regulations, select a specialised company or financial advisor that will help you set up your offshore account. Companies such as Cayman Banking Services, Maritime International and Delta Quest can advise you on an appropriate bank depending on your requirements, account activity, and amount of funds.

Choose an offshore bank. Large, international banks often offer greater security and more services, but they charge higher fees. Be sure to ask if you will be able to access your account by the internet. This will enable you to make payments, check your account balance and initiate transfers from anywhere around the globe.

4. Decide what type of offshore account you want to open: a traditional savings account or a current account. Some banks also offer credit cards, debit cards, ATM cards and safety deposit boxes. Take into consideration what kind of fees will apply, whether you have to maintain a minimum account balance, and of course what interest rate the bank offers.

5. Fill out forms required to open an account: applications, one or two copies of your most recent utility bill to prove your current residency, a reference from your current bank, and a certified copy of photo identification such as a driver’s license or passport. Most applications can be handled online.

6. Deposit the required amount once the account has been opened (it usually takes 2-7 days after you have submitted the documents and forms to the respective bank). Depending on the jurisdiction and the bank, you may need to start with $1,000 (Antigua, Cyprus, Belize) or you may need to deposit $15,000 (Austria, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Hong Kong, Isle of Man). You can send funds by money order or initiate a transfer from your bank. If you are going to make a truly large deposit you can do so in person.

Keep in mind that you will need to communicate regularly with your offshore bank, check your account, and deposit and withdraw funds. If your offshore bank is located in a place with a warmer climate, such as the Caribbean or Bahamas, you may visit your offshore bank to combine business with pleasure.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Internships in Panama

Internships in Panama center around environmental and biology with the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute and other NGOs, and international relations with the cluster of international organizations in the City of Knowledge.

For Panama labor authorities, an intern is a worker so most Panama companies are reluctant to hire foreigners which would expose them to government fines for hiring without a permit. A work permit can take more than 10 months to be granted and by that time the internship is over. However, some options are available.

Internships Information

Follow Florida State University to the next level of education: international internships. These are remarkable opportunities for both undergraduate and graduate students to work within prestigious organizations and dynamic corporations, while at the same time earning academic credit. Internships are integral to FSU's global perspective, offering students not only incomparable career experience, but more intense cultural interaction. At our respected year-round study centers, FSU has forged strong professional affiliations within the host countries. The result is coveted job placements in four major world cities: London, England; Florence, Italy; Panama City, Republic of Panama; and Valencia, Spain. In addition, our College of Social Work has established opportunities for international internships around the globe.

What is an internship?

Internships are generally unpaid, full-time or part-time work assignment opportunities in business, political, and professional settings for which students receive academic credit. Internships are planned with, and guided by, professors and the International Programs Internship Coordinator. But once on the job, interns function as employees, with their full responsibilities being to the host firm, their colleagues, and superiors.

In addition, interns complete a personal journal, a summary report, and other academic requirements. These experiences can be invaluable in shaping and defining an education and career. Internships help students:
• focus on a prospective career
• enhance academic study with practical experience
• open a new area of special interest
• develop new skills for future advancement

Program information - Panama Interns
Florida State University has been a strong and important presence in Panama City for 50 years. FSU Panama is, in fact, our oldest international program. With such deep roots in a multinational crossroads city, we have excellent working relationships with Panamanian agencies and enterprises. Internship opportunities are especially interesting because both the region's natural and business settings are so distinctive.

The Republic of Panama is a center of world trade and the meeting place of two oceans. It is an unparalleled place in which to learn about and enter into Latin America's crucial world role. The following is a list of recent placements. Many more are available.

Specific placements are not and cannot be guaranteed. Placements are dependent upon the cooperation agreements between FSU Panama and the organizations.

Internship applicants must have a strong background in both Spanish comprehension and conversation. Total immersion in the language and culture is part of the internship.

Cable & Wireless
The Ford Company (Distribuidora David)
Jansseen Cilag for Central America and the Carribean (Johnson & Johnson)

Government and Not-for-profit Organizations
International Federation of the Red Cross and Crescent Moon
National Association for Nature Conservancy, ANCON
United Nations Childrens Fund, UNICEF
United Nations Development Program, UNDP
United Nations World Food Program

Education And Internship Opportunities In Panama - Education In Panama - by Matthew Atlee
Filed under: Moving & Living Overseas, Jobs Overseas ­ mattatlee @ 10:22 pm

Internships In Panama

A few years ago the U.N headquarters for Latin America moved from Colombia to Panama; the U.N renovated two or three building in Fort Clayton, the old headquarters of the U.S. Army in Panama, for its Latin American headquarters – and they are currently planning to expand their operations in Panama. Fort Clayton is also the home to the Ciudad del Saber (City of Knowledge). Ciudad del Saber offers educational opportunities for those who want to invest in, or lead to the creation of, new knowledge. Institutions that are accepted by the Ciudad del Saber are allowed to apply for resident visas for their employees and families as well as use office space and recreational facilities within Fort Clayton. Ciudad del Saber is to education in Panama what the Colon Free Zone is to trade: an open inexpensive place for outsiders to operate – in this case in knowledge rather than goods.

The UN since it arrived in Panama has been running a number of development and cultural programs, for example, UNICEF runs a number of different programs in Panama and around the region; there are internship possibilities at UNICEF for students. U.S. President George Bush's daughter, Jenna Bush, worked with UNICEF in Panama for 9 months. There are plenty of internship opportunities for students who would like to get some experience working in an international institution. Internships can be arranged by FSU-Panama or by going directly to the UN offices in Clayton. The UN publishes job and internship openings: go to their offices to find out more.

Another place you may want to look into as far as internships is the Smithsonian Institute. The Smithsonian has a long history in Panama. Currently, the Smithsonian has a close relationship with Princeton University and McGill University in Canada. If you want to do an internship with Smithsonian, then you should try to arrange something before you get to Panama.

Another internship possibility is with one of the large hotel chains in Panama. There is more and more of a focus on upgrading food and lodging in Panama and many of the large hotel chains offer students internships. The InterContinental hotel chain is opening a new school of hospitality in Panama, which will also be located in the Ciudad del Saber. The idea is to train Panamanians and others Latin Americans in hospitality.

There are plenty of other internship possibilities in Panama in Anthropology, Archaeology, Business, and Foreign Relations; if you are interested in pursuing an internship in Panama you might want to start your search with one of the many universities in Panama; both FSU-Panama and Louisville offer internships for credit with institutions in Panama.

Earth Train - Panama's Land Conservancy and Sustainable Development program is working on a hybrid combination of investment and donation to develop mixed use buffer zones in the valley of the upper Mamoní River on the southwest border of the Kuna territory.

Earth Train is seeking 1or 2 law students:
  • Who would be willing to work in Panama as interns for a minimum of three months. A one-year stint would be ideal.
  • Who have fluency in Spanish
  • Who have an interest in developing an understanding of Panamanian law – particularly related to environmental protection, forestry, and non-profits, both in the U.S. and Panama.
Interns will work with Earth Train's Panamanian lawyer, Carlos Varela in his office in Panama City. The internship will include housing at Earth Train's Casa Arias and a modest stipend for living expenses.

International business law internship

International business law firm in Panama offers internship opportunities to students and graduates from Law, Social Sciences, International Relations or Business who have an interest in Tax and International Business Law, offshore investments and intellectual property. Previous interns recruited have been from Germany, Italy and Argentina. The firm also offers German referendars the opportunity to spend their “Wahlstation”.

Interns will work with corporate, banking, intellectual property and other legal documents from Panama and other jurisdictions. Activities typically include projects that present an inside view of the work of an offshore business law firm, as well as attendance at government hearings, local bar association seminars and internal training sessions. Good word processing and online research skills are essential. Main working language is English. Spanish, German and Italian are also used. The internship location is in the middle of the banking center of Panama City.

Please note, that we do not compensate interns during their training period. We recognize, however, that living expenses in downtown Panama City are not low and therefore provide a modest monthly stipend for local transportation expenses. Local visa regulations allow 30-90 day stays depending on the nationality of applicants.

The application should include the following documents:
* A personal letter in English or Spanish, explaining the applicant’s interest in the program
* A resume in English, French, German, Italian or Spanish
* Copies of credentials (e.g., copy of current school transcripts)
* A letter of recommendation, in English, French, German, Italian or Spanish, from a member of faculty, business community or the legal profession.

Please send your application to:
Lombardi Aguilar Group
Aptdo. 0831-01110
Panama 0831, Panama

or to infoweb[at] or contact

Other internship opportunities in
Getting a Job in Panama as a Foreigner

Cost of living in Panama for Interns

Estimated One-Time Expenses

Expense Type Price
International Travel $1000
Visa Fees
Recommended Immunizations $500

*See Additional Cost Information below.

Estimated Monthly Expenses

Expense Type Price/month
Housing $400-$500
Food $100
Local Transportation $100
Recreation $100
Personal Expenses $100

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Martinelli defeats government party candidate

Retailer and political maverick Ricardo Martinelli leads the Panama election count at 6:35 pm with 504,812 votes out of 43.68% of votes tallied.  The government party candidate and Noriega supporter Balbina Herrera follows with 306,751 and former President Guillermo Endara trails with 20,864.   Martinelli had an anti-establishment, anti-corruption theme which won more favor than Herrera's message of class distribution and  more law enforcement.

Even if results from Panama City are counted quickly, incoming results from less technologically-advanced locations are unlikely to reverse this trend.

Results are not in for the Panama City Mayor elections nor the Legislature.

More information is available in
La Prensa Interactive map Tribunal
Panama radio stations

Photo: Supporters at Martinelli headquarters learn about the candidate's lead

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Did you report that foreign bank account?

U.S. citizens, as well as non-US citizens with a green card, must file additional paperwork when opening an account offshore.




What Foreign Bank Account?

By Michael B. Nelson, Esq.
Dear Valued Reader,

In 1976 I began my career in international taxation with the accounting firm Price Waterhouse & Co, (now PricewaterhouseCoopers). The New York office hired me to work in their London, England office assisting Americans living and working overseas with their tax structures, tax returns and tax compliance. This was the first time I was exposed to the requirement of Americans to file Federal Form 90-22.1 and in a coordinated checking of one or both boxes on the bottom of Schedule B of the U.S. Income Tax Return, Form 1040. That was over 30 years ago, and you may be surprised at the state of the tax law then which has become even more intrusive in your private and business dealings as well as a continual erosion of the sacred Attorney Client Privilege as it pertains to the U.S. Treasury.

I want to briefly go over a tax controversy that began about the time I moved to London. This controversy will have a chilling effect if you think your tax planning and structures will withstand the mere non-filing of a government informational form; 90-22.1, and "forgetting" to check one or both boxes at the bottom of Schedule B of form 1040.

In 1974 an American businessman, David Sturman and his brother Reuben, who, with others, were utilizing foreign bank accounts in their business. However, they did not file their 90-22.1 or indicate foreign bank accounts or authority on Schedule B. Sturman was subsequently charged with attempted tax evasion, filing false tax returns, willfully failing to maintain records and file reports, and endeavoring to obstruct justice. After years of appeals, Sturman was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment, fined $2.5 million, and ordered to pay prosecution costs. The other defendants were sentenced to shorter terms and fined lesser amounts. They had used both foreign and domestic corporations to transfer money to "conceal…money" and "avoid taxes" according to the testimony of friends, the other named defendants.

Sturman's 1978-82 tax returns that were filed contained numerous false statements and inaccuracies as well as a failure to report his ownership in the domestic and foreign corporations or his signature authority over foreign bank accounts. The court went further and found that he was guilty of willfulness, now a criminal offense, since the tax return Schedule B refers you to a booklet that further outlines your responsibilities for reporting foreign bank transactions. The court concluded that this was a reasonable assumption and, therefore, sufficient to establish willfulness on the part of Sturman.

The U.S. Treasury had taken depositions of four Swiss bank officials in Switzerland prior to the trial that was presided over by a Swiss magistrate. These witnesses' depositions were read into the court's record even at the vigorous objections of Sturman's counsel that Switzerland's strict banking secrecy laws provided a reasonable expectation of privacy protected by the fourth amendment. In support of his assertion of an expectation of privacy, he relied on the Swiss penalties of imprisonment or fine for revealing information and on the Treaty's goal of preserving the integrity of Swiss banking law. However, no such right of privacy in banking records is recognized in the United States, see United States v. Miller, 425 U.S. 435, 96 S.Ct. 1619, 48 L.Ed.2d 71 (1976).

Reuben Sturman, the co-defendant's brother, was also under similar asserted crimes by the U.S. Treasury and his legal counsel too filed an array of objections. The Supreme Court, see United States v. Sullivan, 274 U.S. 259, 260, 47 S.Ct. 607, 607, 71 L.Ed. 1037 (1927), implied that any objections will be considered only if the individual files a completed return and raises the objections in the tax return. Since Reuben failed to file a complete tax return, i.e.….not completing Schedule B of his tax return, the court would not consider his objection. The court went on to state that the definition of willfulness to defeat and evade tax is directly related to a willful failure to file a complete tax return.

Knowing that the United States Supreme Court had decided such a case as I note above in 1982 and the vast array of new harsher legislation that has passed since, you really need to take another serious look at your tax planning and structure compliance. If you just assumed that your choice of jurisdiction will protect you from the U.S. Treasury, you need not look to the recent USB case decided February 19, 2009, the foundation for this case was already decided 27 years ago.

I am a strong advocate of privacy, confidentiality, arranging your business affairs to minimize tax, and protect your assets. However, I am equally strong in my advocacy to file and comply with the laws that you are subject to as U.S. citizens, Green Card Holders and foreigners doing business within the United States. I would like to explore what your options may be if you discover that you do have filing and compliance obligations that are now delinquent.

Michael B. Nelson, Esq