The White House
President George W. Bush
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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
February 16, 2007

President Bush Meets with President Torrijos of the Republic of Panama
Oval Office

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10:50 A.M. EST

PRESIDENT BUSH: Señor Presidente, bienvenido a la Casa Blanca. I'm glad you're here.

PRESIDENT TORRIJOS: Thank you, President.

PRESIDENT BUSH: I always enjoy my discussions with you. You're a visionary leader who cares deeply about the people of Panama.

I can remember very fondly my visit to your country. I remember going to the Panama Canal, and I was impressed by the operations, impressed by the scope of the Canal. And you told me that, for the good of the world, we're going to build an adjunct to the Canal. And I said, well, that's an ambitious agenda. And then, sure enough, as you sit here now, you tell me it's going to come to be. So I congratulate you on having a vision, and I congratulate you on being a leader.

I'm impressed by the economic statistics that we talked about. You told me that you care deeply about your people and you want them working, and they're working. The unemployment rate is down. Commerce is beginning to expand. And that's positive news for Panama; it's positive news for Central America; and it's also good news for us in America.

I appreciate so very much your desire to work out any differences we have on a free trade agreement. I am committed to a Panamanian free trade agreement because I believe it's in the interest of the United States that we have a free trade agreement with your vital country. And I assure you that we'll work in good faith to get an agreement done, and I will call upon the United States Congress, both Republicans and Democrats, to support this deal that will help both nations.

We had an interesting discussion about biofuels. I reminded the President that I said in the State of the Union address that the United States is committed to having about 35 billion gallons of alternative fuels as a part of our fuel mix within a 10-year period of time. Biofuels means ethanol, or biofuels means fuel derived from palm.

It just so happens Panama has got the capacity to make a lot of biofuels. And I believe your capacity to make biofuels and our desire to use biofuels will make an interesting match as we work to become less dependent on oil and better stewards of the environment.

And so I appreciate so very much your vision on that issue, as well. I'm looking forward to working with you. And once again, bienevenidos aqu .

PRESIDENT TORRIJOS: Gracias, Presidente. Thank you.

I'm very pleased and recognize your commitment for pushing the free trade agenda and trying to finish the free trade agreement with Panama and the rest of the Latin American countries. And also I'm very satisfied to know that Latin America is still a very important part of your international agenda, with your trip that's coming next -- and, of course, all the cooperation that we can have in research of biofuels will help all of our countries be less dependent on oil, have more opportunity for our economies to grow.

So it's been, as always, a very sincere and a very fruitful meeting with you, President.

PRESIDENT BUSH: Gracias, amigo. Gracias.

END 10:55 A.M. EST

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