U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Sarasota, has been named chairman of the congressional Friends of Panama Caucus.
Buchanan said he will focus his efforts on creating Florida jobs and enhancing the ability of Port Manatee to capitalize on the expansion of the Panama Canal.
“Jobs and the economy are the most important issue,” said Buchanan in a press release. “As the chairman of the Friends of Panama Caucus, I will work to create Florida jobs by promoting new trade opportunities and positioning Port Manatee to benefit from the expansion of the Panama Canal.”
Port Manatee is the closet deepwater port to the Panama Canal, which is scheduled to double its capacity by 2014. Last year, Buchanan traveled to Panama with the Panamanian Ambassador to the United States, Jaime Eduardo Aleman, and hosted the Ambassador at Port Manatee. In Panama, he met with the President of Panama, Ricardo Martinelli, and business leaders.
Buchanan is working for congressional ratification of the U.S.-Panama Trade Promotion Agreement. Panama is the United States' 56th largest trading partner with $4.7 billion in goods traded between the two countries during 2009. U.S. exports to Panama totaled $4.4 billion compared with $304 million worth of imports resulting in a $4.1 trade surplus.
Buchanan first became a member of the Caucus in 2009.