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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
September 17, 2008

President Bush Meets with President Torrijos of Panama
Oval Office

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1:54 P.M. EDT

PRESIDENT BUSH: Mr. President, thank you for coming. It's -- bienvenidos.

PRESIDENT TORRIJOS: Yes.

PRESIDENT BUSH: Yes. President Torrijos has been a good personal friend and he has been a good friend to freedom and prosperity and democracy. I've been very impressed by your leadership.

President George W. Bush welcomes Panama's President Martin Torrijos to the Oval Office Wednesday, Sept. 17, 2008, at the White House, where the two leaders discussed bilateral issues including the free trade agreement between Panama and the United States. White House photo by Eric Draper The Panamanian economy is strong. They are implementing now a very strategic decision, which is the -- building a parallel canal in Panama. I remember when you first explained it to me there, when I went to visit you, I was most impressed. And then you're here now briefing me that the plans are not only in place, but the operations are beginning soon. And I congratulate you for that.

We talked about bilateral issues. One key issue, of course, is the free trade agreement between the United States and Panama; Congress needs to get it done. This is important for our -- both our nations, it's important for our economies, and it's important for our friendship. And I appreciate you coming to talk to members of Congress. I think it is most useful.

And so it's a joy to be with you again, and I'm proud to have you here. And I pledge to you that I will continue to work hard on this important agreement -- and I will. Welcome.

PRESIDENT TORRIJOS: Thank you, sir. Thank you. It's always a pleasure talking to you and looking at our bilateral relations. They have grown stronger. There's a lot of issues of cooperation in the agenda, cooperation that will make a difference to common people in Panama -- health programs, the regional center that's been established in Panama; educational programs -- we're talking; and of course our commitment to free trade, and, as you said, the commitment that we hope we'll be ready to help in any way to -- in the process.

And I just want to thank you for being a friend of the country, being aware of our problem, and reaching out to help the Panamanian people. So thank you, sir.

PRESIDENT BUSH: Thank you.

END 1:56 P.M. EDT


President George W. Bush speaks with Panama's President Martin Torrijos during their meeting in the Oval Office, Wednesday, Sept. 17, 2008, where President Bush thanked President Torrijos for being a good friend to freedom, prosperity and democracy. White House photo by Eric Draper


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