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Monday, November 30, 2009

PatternReview - Fibre-filled weekend in Montreal with friends

I've been a card-carrying member of PatternReview since January 2005.  I was inspired to join so I could write a review of a Vogue designer pattern (now out of print) that was making steam come out my ears at the time.  Writing a PR review was instantly gratifying, since quite a few members took the time to comment that (a) they sympathized and (b) they thought I had done a good job despite the nasty pattern.  It's also addictive and I now have over 100 reviews on the site. 

The internet and sewing is a strange combination, but it works.  I credit PR with making me more aware of fashion, showing me a huge range of patterns sources from around the world, teaching me a lot about fitting and techniques, and introducing me to some very nice people.  Specifically, thanks to the fact that I'm part of the organizing committee for the first Canadian PR Weekend - to take place in Montreal, Quebec next June - I have met new friends Anne-Marie (Mahler) and ConnieBJ, (who could not join us this weekend), Rhonda (with her lovely Foksy keeping her company), Claire,  Margaret and Alex.

I drove to Montreal this weekend to continue the planning process, and to check and make sure the Montreal stores hadn't run out of fabric.  I'm so happy to report that the planning did progress, and that there is fabric to be had.  I finally got to visit the fabulous Madeleine Soie et Laine where I found:

Amazing sheer but substantial Armani wool (black).  

Silk chiffon.


And at my other favorite store, Couture-Elle, I found a lovely piece of suiting - mostly wool but Mr. Couture-Elle's expert burn test revealed this one also has some silk and rayon in it:

On my way home in the car, this one revealed to me that it wanted to be this Burda jacket.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Warning - no sewing; filler topic!

I seem to be in a slump at the sewing machine.  I'm spending a lot of time working, and exercising (I swim 2x per week, have taken up curling and Pilates 1x per week each, and have signed on with a personal trainer).  I guess I'm a bit tired (strange, that...).  Anyhow, it's easier to sit here at the computer these dark pre-snow November evenings than to actually get off my duff and do 30 minutes of sewing.  Also, I still feel stalled on the coat project but Christmas sewing projects loom large.  I sure hope a surge of adrenaline gets me going, and soon!

In the meantime and to emulate another blogger (Johanna Lu) I hereby present to you my new/old pincushion in before and after state.  I got this at the Fabric Flea Market a month or so ago. 



This was originally stuffed with sawdust with some very tired velvet-like fabric holding it in.  The "shoelaces" were just twine.  I replaced the stuffing with a wadded up piece of polar fleece, after carefully threading some braided cord through the eyelets of the shoe.  Easy!

Here it is with its sewing room friend - the other shoe!


Monday, November 16, 2009

Back where I started

Ripping and testing and re-sewing are not my favorite sewing activities, but sometimes you just have to force yourself to do them.  In fact, I rip and re-sew quite a lot because I'm a perfectionist.  However the ripping done on this coat is far beyond what I'd normally expect to do in a given sewing project.

I basically wasted 2 sewing days ripping out what I had sewn, making changes and then advancing back to where I should have been last week.  Now I have a functional gusset and a lining that shows more of the promise of the coat-to-be.

After I figured out, using the muslin, where the gusset needed to be and how big it should be, I transferred the necessary details to my pattern and then to the side fronts and backs of my partially-sewn lining.  Of course, this meant I had to rip.  While I was taking out the side/underarm seams, I decided that at the same time I would have a try at fixing another problem with the lining as first sewn - the sleeves felt too bulky and too narrow.  So I also removed the Thinsulate from the sleeves.

I decided to replace the Thinsulate with some 200-wt polar fleece.  Here you can see the new pieces, hand-sewn into place.  Yes, you read that right!  The sewing lawyer (who has been known to wonder what those thin and sharp metal objects known as "needles" are for) basted these babies in by hand.  I did it because the sleeves, which are slightly on the bias since they're cut-on, were stretching longer and narrower when machine-basted to the underlining.  When I realized how much narrower they were than the just-cut pieces of polar fleece, I knew I would get better control and have less reason for more growling in the sewing room, if I just bowed to inevitability and basted them in by hand.

I recently bought a life-time supply of white basting thread from a charming lady who runs a tailoring supply store in Montreal.  I own needles.  I have no excuses!  I didn't even mind the hand-sewing activity.  I laid the very bulky coat out on my cutting table, as you can see in the picture, and did the sewing while standing there.  It was quite Zen...  Changing the underlining to a less-bulky one, and paying attention to the stretch factor solved my too-narrow sleeve problem very nicely.

I then stitched around where I would alter the underarm area to insert the gussets.  Pictures speak louder than words, and here is one that will explain what I did.  Between the lines of stitching, you can see the gusset marking.

I sewed the new underarm seam up to but not over these lines of stitching.  Then, I slashed up between the lines of stitching. 
After that, it was relatively easy to sew the gussets into place.  Don't be fooled - I didn't do it in one pass.  I went over the pointy ends several times to ensure that on the inside, there were no little raw edges peeping out.  I am relatively confident they will hold, and if they don't I have that "needle" thing and am not afraid to use it!

And look, now I can move my arms!  This modification should be invisible in the finished coat.  But what a difference it will make...

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Virginia Resident Pleads Guilty to Bribing Panamanian Officials for Maritime Contract

If somebody says that paying a kickback is a harmless way to get things done in Panama, run away! This guy discovered the hard way that paying for a re-election campaign in Panama through a dividend is not a good idea.

Does that mean that the Panama PRD officials involved are also guilty of corruption? What will Panama judges do?

Department of Justice Office of Public Affairs

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Friday, November 13, 2009

Virginia Resident Pleads Guilty to Bribing Panamanian Officials for Maritime Contract
WASHINGTON – Charles Paul Edward Jumet of Fluvanna County, Va., pleaded guilty today in connection with his role in a conspiracy to pay bribes to Panamanian government officials to secure a maritime contract, announced Assistant Attorney General of the Criminal Division Lanny A. Breuer, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia Neil H. MacBride, Joseph Persichini Jr., Assistant Director-in-Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office, Jennifer Smith Love, Special Agent-in-Charge of the FBI’s Richmond Field Office and James A. Dinkins, Special Agent-in-Charge of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Office of Investigation, Washington.
Jumet, 53, pleaded guilty before U.S. Magistrate Judge Dennis W. Dohnal in Richmond, Va., to a two-count information charging him with conspiring to make corrupt payments to foreign government officials for the purpose of securing business for Ports Engineering Consultants Corporation (PECC) in violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA); and making a false statement.
PECC, a company incorporated under the laws of Panama, was affiliated with Overman Associates, an engineering firm based in Virginia Beach, Va. According to Jumet’s plea, PECC was created so Jumet, Overman Associates and others could corruptly obtain a maritime contract from the Panamanian government.
According to court documents, Jumet was involved in a conspiracy to pay money secretly to Panamanian government officials for awarding PECC contracts to maintain lighthouses and buoys along Panama’s waterway. In December 1997, the Panamanian government awarded PECC a no-bid, 20-year concession to perform these duties. In exchange for the concession, Jumet and others authorized corrupt payments to the Panamanian government officials.
In 2000, Panama’s Comptroller General’s Office suspended the contract while it investigated the government’s decision to award PECC a contract without soliciting any bids from other firms. In 2003, the Panama government resumed making payments to PECC.
In connection with his guilty plea, Jumet admitted that from at least 1997 through approximately July 2003, he and others conspired to make corrupt payments totaling more than $200,000 to the former administrator and deputy administrator of Panama’s National Maritime Ports Authority and to a former, high-ranking elected executive official of the Republic of Panama.
In his guilty plea, Jumet also admitted that he knowingly made a false statement to federal agents about a December 1997 "dividend" check payable to the bearer in the amount of $18,000, which was endorsed and deposited into an account belonging to the former, high-ranking elected executive official. Jumet admitted that he had falsely claimed that this "dividend" check was a donation for the high-ranking official’s re-election campaign. Jumet also admitted that the "dividend" check was in fact given to the former official as a corrupt payment for allowing PECC to receive the contract from the Panamanian government.
As part of his plea agreement, Jumet has agreed to cooperate with the Department of Justice in its ongoing investigation. The conspiracy count carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a fine of the greater of $250,000 or twice the gross gain or loss from the scheme. The false statement count carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a fine of $250,000. Sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 12, 2010.
The case was prosecuted by Trial Attorney Rina Tucker Harris of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael S. Dry of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia. The case was investigated by the FBI’s Washington Field Office, the FBI’s Richmond Field Office and ICE’s Office of Investigation, Richmond and Washington.
Criminal Division

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Singapore aerospace companies reach Americas through Panama

Published October 29, 2009

Copa's vote of confidence in ST Aerospace


WHEN ST Aerospace set up a maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) service shop for aircraft in Panama in 2006, one of its first customers was Copa Airlines.

Photo - Key location: ST Aerospace set up a facility in Panama as it reckons that it is the perfect place to do business because it is between North and South America

Recently, Copa not only renewed its maintenance service agreement with Panama Aerospace Engineering, ST Aerospace's Panama facility, but extended the agreement beyond its B737 planes to its E-190s.

Obviously, ST Aerospace has a satisfied customer in Copa. The Singapore-based company, which is recognised as the world's largest aircraft MRO service provider, takes it as 'a testament to our high quality and reliable service'.

Copa's gesture augurs well for ST Aerospace, which set up the Panama facility to provide a strong and competitive MRO base to serve the Americas - 'supporting the maintenance needs of customers operating in Central, North and South America', says ST Aerospace president Tay Kok Khiang.

The facility is intended to boost ST Aerospace's capabilities and complements its operations in the US, which remains a key market because it is home to almost half of the world's commercial airliners.

To have customers like Copa coming back - and for more - puts ST Aerospace in a strong position to win more customers in a fast-growing market for aviation services.

In fact, the company has seen its customer base in Panama expand to include clients such as AerCap, AWAS, GECAS, Sundowner Aviation and Transaero Airlines among others.

'This demonstrates our growing success and customers' growing confidence,' says Mr Tay.

ST Aerospace initially faced a shortage of trained aviation mechanics in Panama. But it anticipated this problem. So as it built up the Panama facility, it also started a significant training programme for the locals.

It also deployed some of its expertise from the US and Singapore to help get operations in Panama off the ground.

'Today, the training programme is going well as we have well-educated and enthusiastic employees,' Mr Tay says. 'With our established systems and processes in place within our global network, we were able to share our knowledge to facilitate the start-up process.'

The Panama facility is now performing well, he says. 'It has consistently re-delivered aircraft on time and with quality to customers, and has steadily built a strong track record for the maintenance of narrow-body aircraft, with more than 60 re-delivered to date.'

ST Aerospace reckons that Panama is the perfect place to do business because it is between North and South America.

'It is recognised as an important transport and shipping hub, and we feel it is an ideal location for MRO,' says Mr Tay. 'It is also close to the US, where we have a good client base, and has a good infrastructure.'

The aviation market in Latin America is projected to expand at a rate second only to Asia, mainly in narrow-body aircraft.

'Therefore we expect to continue growing our Latin American customer base,' Mr Tay says. 'As the aviation business recovers and carriers start to build up capacity, and due to competitive advantages that Latin American MROs have, Latin America will be an attractive outsourcing option for US carriers.'

Full text in http://www.businesstimes.com.sg/mnt/html/btpre/registration/redirect.jsp?dlink=/sub/specialfocus/story/0,4574,356733,00.html? .

Special Focus
Published October 29, 2009

Aviation prospects in Mexico, Brazil, Panama, Argentina: IES

AVIATION opportunities in selected countries seen through the eyes of International Enterprise (IE) Singapore.

Panama: The next 40 years will see the former Howard Military Base transformed into a mixed-use community called Panama Pacifico. The $705 million project includes an airport and logistics hub.

Signalling Panama's commitment to develop the aviation sector at Panama Pacifico, Law 41 offers tax benefits for providers of aviation industry services and aviation maintenance, repair and operations (MRO) services. Aerospace Engineering, an offshoot of Singapore-based ST Aerospace, already has a footprint at Panama Pacifico.
Full text in http://www.businesstimes.com.sg/mnt/html/btpre/registration/redirect.jsp?dlink=/sub/specialfocus/story/0,4574,356731,00.html ?

The Latin American route

The aviation opportunities Latin America has to offer extend beyond air cargo, reports CHUANG PECK MING

SINGAPORE Airlines Cargo launched flights to several Latin American cities in February this year because it wanted to fly flowers from Ecuador and Colombia to the rest of the world.

Oh, and it was also eyeing a cut of the business of shipping Brazil's electronics exports.

At the moment, the continuing global slump in electronics has kept exports down. But worldwide demand for freshly cut flowers is in bloom again.

'As the world economy picks up, so will air cargo movements in and out of Latin America to various parts of the world,' says Angeline Chan, head of the transport and logisticis division at International Enterprise (IE) Singapore.

Due to the vast size of countries in Latin America, air transport is a vital link, she says. 'There is a need for an efficient and well-connected civil aviation system to link the sparsely inhabited areas with major economic centres. And aviation infrastructure is also necessary infrastructure to support trade in and out of the region.'

Air-services agreements that allow civil aviation between countries, and the physical connectivity of airlines, are essential for cargo traffic, Ms Chan says. So it's good for Singapore air-cargo service providers that Singapore has just signed new air services agreements with several Latin American states.

By end-2008, Singapore had air service agreements with Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Mexico and Panama in Latin America. Since 2009, Ms Chan says IE Singapore, which is pushing Singapore companies to go global, has been helping the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore build a network of air services agreements to link Singapore with major air cargo and passenger routes in Latin America.

For more information about IESingapore, please contact
Ms Jocelyn Cai
International Enterprise Singapore
+ 65 6433 4583 tel+ 65 6337 6898 fax

Friday, November 13, 2009

Panama grants naturalization after 10 years...

5 years as permanent resident, 5 years later for the application to be approved.

The past Torrijos administation was happy to announce it has the largest number of ships registered, corporations formed, dollars taxed, tourists received. However, when it comes to naturalizations, 97 new Panamanians a year is good enough.

Will the new Martinelli change things around and arrange to have a backlog of hundreds of naturalization applications resolved?

Panamá, domingo 17 de febrero de 2008

El lento proceso para una naturalización

Obtener la nacionalidad panameña debe demorar seis meses, pero a veces tarda hasta cinco años.
José Somarriba Hernández

Cuando *Jessica llegó a Panamá, desde Cantón, en China Continental, tenía cuatro años de edad. Para entonces, su familia no imaginaba que esta tierra sería, 21 años después, su segunda patria.

"Estudié kínder, primaria y secundaria, me gradué con el primer puesto de honor. Me fui a estudiar medicina a Cuba, me recibí de doctora con el segundo lugar en la Facultad de Ciencias Médicas Ciego De Ávila", contó.

Hace dos años, Jessica, quien para entonces tenía 23 años de edad, empezó con los procesos de naturalización, pero no imaginó que sería un trámite "tan engorroso, lento y burocrático".

Explicó que todo ese tiempo, su abogada hizo lo imposible porque le entregaran la carta de naturaleza; sin embargo, siempre tropezó con el "poco importa de las autoridades vinculada al tema".

Jessica dice que al final se cansó y le hizo la petición al presidente Martín Torrijos, personalmente y fue así como consiguió su cometido.

La joven fue juramentada en la Gobernación de Panamá como panameña en enero pasado, aunque solo junto a cinco personas más. Las juramentaciones se hacen los últimos jueves de cada mes. Los trámites de Jessica comenzaron en 2006.

La representante legal de Jessica indicó que, al igual que este caso, tiene un cliente que pasa por el mismo problema: "Es un muchacho que llegó desde China con tres años de edad y estudió toda la escuela aquí, incluso se está graduando de arquitectura en la Universidad de Panamá. De no obtener su naturalización no podrá trabajar de arquitecto".


La jurista explicó que el trámite de la carta de naturaleza tiene un costo de unos 2 mil 300 a 2 mil 500 dólares.

Cuando entra la solicitud de naturalización a la Dirección de Migración, se debe pagar 20 dólares.

Luego, 50 dólares más en el Tribunal Electoral, para hacer un examen de geografía, historia y política de Panamá.

Haber estudiado la escuela secundaria en Panamá exime de esta prueba, pero igual debe pagar los 50 dólares.

Después la solicitud es enviada al Ministerio de Gobierno y Justicia y, de allí, al Consejo de Seguridad para, a través de Interpol, conocer si el peticionario ha cometido algún delito.

"Lo malo es que si le hallan alguna falta, por mínima que sea [incluso, una infracción de tránsito] le niegan la naturalización", sostuvo.

Luego de esto, el consejo manda una nota en que recomienda aprobar o negar la carta de naturaleza. Tras lo cual el Presidente debe firmarla.

Ya con la firma, la carta de naturaleza –un documento en forma de diploma– se deben pagar 300 dólares en Migración por el timbre que lleva y 10 dólares más por la caligrafía.

La persona puede juramentarse luego en la Gobernación de Panamá, proceso que es gratuito. Un abogado, por la tramitación, cobra entre mil dólares y 2 mil dólares.


Otro abogado, que prefirió no ser identificado, explicó que el proceso es "muy burocrático", pues debe durar unos seis meses, pero en algunos casos tarda hasta cinco años.

"Tengo clientes desde el gobierno pasado y algunos tienen casi cinco años de estar esperando la naturalización. De hecho, cuando el documento llega al Consejo [de Seguridad] se siente una alegría, pero el Presidente [Martín Torrijos] no los firma. Ni a las notas ni a los impulsos procesales le hacen caso", explicó.

El jurista comentó que tiene poco más de 200 clientes que todavía están a la espera, algunos desde hace cuatro años. De hecho, desde que llegó el actual gobierno, se han aprobado solo tres cartas de naturaleza.

"Una porque la persona se le plantó al Presidente, y las otras dos porque se trata de dos hermanas que tienen un conocido en el Partido Revolucionario Democrático", indicó.

Tayra Barsallo, subdirectora de Migración, dijo que el proceso de las naturalizaciones está contenido en el artículo 10 de la Constitución que sirve de base a su solicitud, la Ley 7 de 14 de marzo de 1980 y el Decreto 59 de 4 de agosto de 1988.

"Quienes aspiran a nacionalizarse deben cumplir con los requisitos de la Constitución y las instituciones", añadió.

Se trató de tener una versión de la Presidencia, pero se nos comunicó que se encontraban en una reunión extraordinaria. *Nombre ficticio

Full text in http://mensual.prensa.com/mensual/contenido/2008/02/17/hoy/panorama/1267383.html

Panama, Sunday February 17, 2008

In 2007 only 97 people were naturalized.
The slow process of naturalization
Obtaining the Panamanian nationality should take six months, but sometimes takes up to five years.

Somarriba José Hernández
jsomarriba@ prensa.com
* When Jessica arrived in Panama, from Canton in mainland China, she was four years old. By then her family could not imagine that this land would, 21 years later, his second home.

"I studied kindergarten, primary and secondary education, I graduated with first place of honor. I went to study medicine to Cuba, I got my doctor for the second place in the Ciego De Ávila School of Medical Sciences" he said.

Two-year-old Jessica, who by then was 23 years old, started with the process of naturalization, but never imagined it would be a formality "as cumbersome, slow and bureaucratic.

He explained that all that time, her attorney did the impossible because he handed the letter to nature, but always ran into the "little matter of the authorities linked to the issue."

Jessica says that eventually grew tired and made a request to President Martín Torrijos, and was personally and got his mission.

She was sworn in the Government of Panama and Panama in January, but only with five others. The oath was made last Thursday of each month. Jessica formalities began in 2006.

Jessica's legal representative said that, like this case, a customer that goes through the same problem: "He's a guy who came from China three years and studied the entire school here, even graduating in architecture at the University of Panama. Due to his failure to obtain naturalization he may not work as an architect. "


The lawyer explained that the pending nature of the letter will cost about 2 thousand 300 a 2 thousand 500 dollars.

When he enters the naturalization application to the Immigration Department, it must pay $ 20.

Then $ 50 more in the Electoral Tribunal to make an examination of geography, history and politics of Panama.

Have studied high school in Panama exempt from this test, but still must pay $ 50.

After the application is sent to the Ministry of Government and Justice and, hence, the Security Council, through Interpol, to know if the person has committed a crime.

"The trouble is that if you find a fault, however minimal [even a traffic violation] denied naturalization," he said.

After this, the council sent a note to recommend approval or deny the certificate of naturalization. After which the President must sign it.

Since the signature, the letter of nature-a document in the form of diploma-$ 300 must be paid by the bell on Migration and carrying $ 10 more for the calligraphy.

The person may then be sworn in the Government of Panama, a process that is free. A lawyer for the processing, charging between thousand and 2 thousand dollars.

Very bureaucratic

Another lawyer, who declined to be identified, explained that the process is "very bureaucratic" because probably take about six months, but sometimes takes up to five years.

"I have customers from government and some have spent almost five years of waiting for naturalization. In fact, when the document is the Council [Security] feel a joy, but President [Martín Torrijos] not the firm. Neither the notes or the process you ignore impulses, "he said.

The lawyer said he has little more than 200 customers are still waiting, some for four years. In fact, since joining the present government has approved only three letters of nature.

"A person because he planted the President and the other two because they are two sisters who have an acquaintance in the Democratic Revolutionary Party," he said.

Tayra Barsallo, Deputy Director of Immigration, said the naturalization process is contained in Article 10 of the Constitution that underlies its application of Law 7 of 14 March 1980 and Decree 59 of August 4, 1988 .

"Those who aspire to become citizens must meet the requirements of the Constitution and the institutions," he added.

We tried to have a version of the Presidency, but we were informed that they were in a special session. * Fictitious name

Why property agents should act only for one party

This letter was written by a reader of a Singapore and explains why conflicts of interest do arise when a real estate agent represent both seller and buyer, as is very frequent in Panama.

property agents should act for only one party: Forum
[2009] 04 Nov_ST

Title: Why property agents should act for only one party: Forum
Source: Straits Times

Legal News Archive

I REFER to last Thursday's Forum Online letters by Mrs Teresa Yao ('How new rules can protect property agents') and Mr Teo Kueh Liang ('Barring same-agent property brokerage not practical').

Both writers have highlighted the plight of the majority of ethical property agents, whose image has been tarnished by a small group of unscrupulous and dishonest agents.

In any profession, it is impossible to completely wipe out the bad hats. Therefore, after an acceptable standard of practice has been established, understood and made into law, non-compliant practices should be punished.

In any property transaction, the two most important parties are the seller and the buyer. They must enter into a legally binding contract in order for the sale to go through. It is therefore natural that we facilitate the interests of the seller and the buyer first.

The interests of the property agent come after those of the seller and the buyer, as his role can come into being only after he has been appointed.

The terms of appointment, that is, what the agent can or cannot do, for example, must be expressedly agreed between him and the one who appoints him, so that there is no ambiguity that leads to future problems.

When the Ministry of National Development puts into law a system for the seller, the buyer and the property agent, it must separately examine the relationship between the seller or buyer and the property agent, from the relationship between the seller and the buyer. If the seller or the buyer chooses to hand the responsibilities over to his agent, he must adequately reward the agent.

To protect his own interests, the property agent should act for only one party and not both.

Patrick Sio

Read also:

Filing complaints against Panama real estate agents
Liability of real estate agents in property purchases

Singapore: Latin America's Asian Partner

Panama has a Free Trade Agreement with Singapore and this year will be participating in the Latin Asia Business Forum http://www.latinasiabiz.com/ starting November 12. The conference coincides with the Asia Pacific Economic Conference APEC http://www.apec2009.sg/ which is attended by Mexico, Peru and Chile as Latin American countries.

Singapore companies doing business in Panama include ST Aerospace (Panama Aerospace Engineering) at former Howard AFB, CrimsonLogic at City of Knowledge and soon PSA at the future Farfan port.

Monday, September 17, 2007
Singapore: Latin America's Asian Partner
Latin America is becoming more important for Singapore. Latin American companies can use Singapore as a bridge to China and India.


Latin America is an increasingly important market for Singaporean companies. At the same time, we are beginning to feel more of Latin America's presence and interests in Asia. (..)

The only other combined market that outpaces this growth is Australia and the Middle East, but their base is too small for real comparison. Singapore's trade with Latin America has also been increasing. Between 2004 and 2006, total trade involving Singapore and Latin America grew at an average of 29.1 percent per year to $7.8 billion. However, this constitutes only 1.46 percent of Singapore's total trade.

In terms of investments, it is lesser known fact how much a small nation like Singapore invests in Latin America and the Caribbean. We have invested about $28 billion, albeit much of it directed towards tax havens such as British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands and Bermuda. Nevertheless, Singaporean companies have made significant, direct long-term investments in the region. At the end of 2004, Singapore's stock of investments in Brazil ($129 million) and Mexico ($556 million) made us Asia's second largest source of foreign direct investment (FDI) in each of those countries. Only Japan surpassed us.

What is more significant is the fact that our companies are not investing in resource assets. Instead, Singaporean companies are investing in high employment-generating sectors. Our footprint in the region numbers more than 60 companies in 21 countries throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of Latin American companies in Asia.

In a survey conducted by International Enterprise (IE) Singapore last year, we found that companies generally venture into Latin America due to demand for their products and services. More encouragingly, 85 percent of respondents reported that investments have been profitable. Reflecting confidence in business opportunities, more than half (53 percent) of survey respondents expressed an intention to further expand Latin American operations. If we had done a similar survey looking at Singaporean companies doing business in China and India, I do not think we would have found a similar level of profitability.

Today, China and India account for 37 percent of the world's population and constitute 18 percent of the global economy. We can only expect these figures to grow in the foreseeable future, given both real gross domestic product (GDP) growth and the level of private consumption in Asia. It is becoming apparent why most Boards of Directors of Asian and Latin American companies are forcing their business development teams to come up with an Asian strategy.

Two or three years ago, in my position at International Enterprise Singapore­a government agency responsible for helping Singapore-based companies to internationalize operations and foster the development of Singapore as a thriving global trading hub­there was a little procrastination when I wanted to meet Latin American multinational corporation executives. Today it is different; they want to meet and see how we can help with their Asian strategy.


The sheer size and strength of China's economy poses both challenges and opportunities. Singapore's strategy has been to identify niches and complementary areas where we can add value rather than directly compete.

In 2006, Singapore's trade with China stood at $55 billion, an increase of 27 percent over the previous year, making it Singapore's fourth largest trading partner. Since 1997, China has also been the number one investment destination for Singaporean companies. Singapore is China's seventh largest investor, having accumulatively invested more than $15 billion.

Singapore's relationship with China is marked by a very significant role that we played in the early stage of its open door policy. In the late 1980s, our ex-Deputy Prime Minister Mr Goh Keng Swee acted as an economic advisor to Shenzhe­China's first special economic zone.

In 1994, the two countries strengthened their relationship by jointly embarking on a large-scale township development project­the Suzhou Industrial Park (SIP). Today, the SIP is a well-managed and integrated township of over 70 square kilometers with excellent infrastructure and a high-quality environment, accommodating 80,000 residents. It has attracted $16 billion in investment, and since inception, its GDP has grown at an average of 45 percent per year.

However, the picture was not always rosy. We did go through our learning curve. We learned that it was not enough to just cultivate relationships at the central government level. From the SIP project, it became clear that relationships should be built at the provincial and municipal levels. It seems obvious today, but in 1990s it was not so apparent.

To ensure these strong relationships continue, we have since adopted several approaches. First, we are using political platforms to strengthen relationships. We have established several G-G level platforms. At the central government level, we have the Joint Council for Bilateral Cooperation chaired by the Deputy Prime Ministers from both countries. Also, we have developed provincial-level Business Councils to raise awareness about business opportunities and to facilitate Singaporean companies' commercial interests in certain provinces. These Councils allow stronger relationships to be built between the political leadership and also provide avenues for co-investment and dispute resolution.

We are also helping Singapore-based companies internationalize in China. IE Singapore has set- up offices in nine locations in China to provide on-the-ground support for our businesses. Importantly, we have chosen to be selective in our approach and focused on a few key sectors where Singapore companies have solid track records and international reputation (e.g. environmental engineering, water and waste water treatment, healthcare management, education services, infrastructure, and industrial park development).

To attract Chinese investment, Singapore is positioning itself as a gateway to the global economy. Our wide network of free-tade agreements (FTAs), excellent logistics and communications network, and similar language and cultural background make Singapore a natural choice. To date, over 2,300 Chinese companies have established operations in Singapore. Of them, 116 companies have also chosen to list in Singapore to capitalize on our corporate governance standards and capital market depth.


Bilateral trade between India and Singapore has grown to record levels, reaching $13 billion in 2006, an over 20 percent increase from 2005. Singapore investments in India have also grown. We are India's seventh largest inward investor country with cumulative investments worth $1.6 billion. In 2006, Singapore was India's second largest investor.

How have we strengthened our engagement with India? In the last three years, Singapore secured a solid FTA with India. The Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) is providing the framework for a more attractive business environment. The Indian government has also recently decided to set up special economic zones (SEZs) to provide a catalyst for the growth of manufacturing and export sectors. Singapore and India have agreed to jointly set up an SEZ in India, and both sides are working to implement it.

In return, Indian companies have also found Singapore to be a logical springboard to other markets. The more than 2,000 Indian companies in Singapore are using our infrastructure and services to do business globally.

If you are wondering why this is happening, I will let you in on the best kept secret in the business world: the Singapore government has been actively supporting and investing in the export growth of foreign companies based in Singapore that are doing business in Asia and beyond. We provide incentives and grants for business development being coordinated from Singapore for the rest of the world. Shouldn't Latin American companies wanting to grow in Asia also join the club?

Satvinder Singh is the Americas Regional Director at International Enterprise Singapore. This column is based on a Viewpoints Americas from the Americas Society and the Council of the Americas.

Full text in http://www.latinbusinesschronicle.com/app/article.aspx?id=1640

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Retrofitting the coat pattern - next time, make the muslin first!

In response to my plea for help, several of you responded (thanks!!) to reassure me that gussets are not really all that mysterious and that I could do it.  I am not all that afraid of the sewing of the gusset - what has required more mental effort is the notion of exactly where the gusset should go, and what shape and size it should be to make this coat actually wearable.  This problem brought the sewing on the actual coat to a crashing halt.  I backed up to muslin stage.  If only I had started with such a step, instead of having to down tools in mid-project to "fix" a bad pattern!  (Will I ever trust Burda again????)

I assembled a muslin out of a rather stiff canvas-y fabric so that I could test my gusset-making skills.  I've taken photos along the way to document my attempts, failures and "progress".  It does not really feel like progress when you start to progress from 3 steps back!

Here are my muslin demo pictures:
On the right sleeve (to the left in the photo) you can see the original design.  I have no range of motion because the arm attaches to the body of the jacket far too low.  When I try to lift my arm, the body of the jacket comes right along.

The next step was to figure out how far into the jacket body to slash so that I could insert a gusset.

I did this very unscientifically!  Wearing the muslin and looking in the mirror, I took a white marking pencil and located the top of the slash by feel/instinct where it seemed that if opened up to that point, the "hinge" connecting the sleeve to jacket body would give me enough room to move.  Then I had my husband figure out where the corresponding point would be on my back.  
This turned out fine, somewhat to my surprise.

On the left sleeve (right of the photo) I have inserted a gusset which turned out far too big.  I did not modify the original underarm seam.  With that very low underarm, I needed the gusset to be this size to achieve an acceptable range of motion for my arm.  However, it is UGLY!

On to my next experiment.  I realized I could turn the original upside-down U shaped underarm seam into a higher pointy-cornered seam.  In the next photo you can see my pencilled changes on the pattern piece for the back, including the line up into the body of the piece, which marks the slash where the gusset will be inserted. The effect of this change is to raise the insertion point for the gusset, meaning the gusset will not have to be quite so wide to give the same range of motion.

And here you can see the result of the smaller gusset (inserted in the right sleeve, to the left of the photo).  It's a little cleaner looking than the big gusset on the left sleeve.

I look a bit happier with this experiment now.

Wish me luck translating this change, and a few others I thought of while puzzling over this problem, into my actual coat.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Panama Instant Passport Program

The "Instant Passport Program" refers to the Rentista visa or Temporary Residence Visa as an Independent Retired http://lawyerfuture.blogspot.com/search/label/rentista, which has maintained the advantage of an identification booklet whith the same cover as a normal Panama passport - it even reads "Pasaporte" in its front cover. You can see its content in See http://lawyerfuture.blogspot.com/search/label/second%20passport

Panama authorities clearly warn that this is not a passport and should not be used as a travel document, even though some anxious peddlers on the Internet call it a passport. It is meant more as a fancy picture ID and does not grant Panama citizenship.

--- En date de : Sam 7.11.09, bryan88 a écrit :

De: bryan88
Objet: Panama Instant Passport Program
Date: Samedi 7 Novembre 2009, 1h01

To Mypanamalawyer

There are various websites offering an instant passport from panama stating you only need to deposit money with the national bank of panama for 5 years and you get a passport and residency. I just wanted to find out if it applies and if so,what are the details. I am a South African citizen planning on relocating to Panama within the next year or so and wish to relinquish my South African citizenship but would lose my current passport if I do. If you could please be so kind as to advise me on what to do.

Many Thanks

Monday, November 9, 2009

We have a problem!

My husband says my latest project, in progress, looks like a cartoon drawing of a coat.  Proof is in the picture to the right. 

I'm not so troubled by the look - what you see is the Thinsulate, which has been sewn to the lining and facings.  It'll be covered by the fashion fabric, once I get further along.

My problem is the fact that the sleeves leave me with virtually no mobility.  The depth from shoulder point to underarm is about 11" (28cm) which is FAR too much.  The arm parts from the body just a bit higher than my bottom rib.  Methinks I will have to insert a gusset.  This does NOT make me happy!

I'll have to read up on gussets.  To free up the sleeve from where it is tethered next to my ribs, I figure I'll need to slice at least 9cm (3.5") up on either side of the underarm seam.  I'll first open the seam, figure out the placement for the cut, and sew a line of stitching on either side to anchor the lining fabric and Thinsulate.  I'm not looking forward to the sewing of the gusset.  I think I'll underline it with something less bulky than the Thinsulate - perhaps some 100 weight Polartec. 

What say any of you experts reading this?  All advice including references to articles or books will be gratefully received.

Progress - slow, but progress still

I've now washed (cold water) and machine-dried the cotton/bamboo rayon Spoonflower fabric.  The original length of 2 yards exactly (72" or 183cm) has shrunk to 69.25" (176cm).  That's about 3.8% shrinkage, which seems a fair amount to me.  The printed width, post washing, is 51.5" (131cm) - Spoonflower's site says the printable width is 52" so I think it shrank a small amount in width too.  That's after pressing it with steam - the unpressed fabric was drawn up so even shorter. 

The other thing that happened in the wash was slight crocking of the flat dark-grey background, as you can see here.  I don't mind it as it gives a slight texture to the previously completely unvaried background - makes the grey look more like the rock you would scan for a trilobite fossil. 

I wrote that last sentence, and then went looking on Google for pictures of trilobite fossils from this area.  My gosh, I was right! Check these out!  

I think I'm going to make it up in a much-used men's casual shirt pattern, the very long out-of-print McCalls 4115. 

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Two Projects

So here are two projects in the queue chez The Sewing Lawyer.  The first is my next winter coat.  Winter is, they say, coming again this year, and we must Prepare.  Today it was below 0 degrees (celsius) so they must be right.  I do own several winter coats already.  I made a nice wool one last year, taking part in Marji's Great Coat Sew-along.  It is very warm.  And. Very. Heavy.  Despite the fact that it is really not much more than a single layer of fabric (OK, plus a wind-stopping interlining of mystery fabric, and Kasha lining).  It was a magnum opus of sorts.  I used a vintage Vogue pattern and everything, and it wasn't even my size.  Oh, and the pattern would not have made a winter coat that would go over anything more bulky than a light cashmere twinset.  So I did have to modify.  You can read about my coat project here and here and here and here. For those not interested in the long tale or details, here is my finished coat.  Yes, that is heavy wool coating cut on the bias.  It really worked! 

This year I thought I'd make a different kind of coat altogether.  One that would be presentably elegant, would cover any wardrobe item I might choose to wear in deepest winter, would be warm, but would be L I G H T.  This requires abandonment of heavy wool, and the embracing of impermeable synthetic fabrics and Thinsulate!

For my pattern I chose a Burda envelope pattern, number 7731.  Like my heavy wool coat, this one is quite long and has a nice easy A-line.  It has an interesting collar.  Unlike my heavy wool coat, it has no difficult-to-sew details.  The sleeves are cut-on.  It has princess seams.  It does have pockets, unlike the ostentatiously impractical Vogue Couture pattern. And it will not be heavy! 

I had a marathon cutting-out session a few weeks ago.  But I'm having trouble getting into this project.  More to come.

I'm also going to be making men's shirts.  I've asked my husband how he would like to be referred to here - he didn't go for "Mr. Sewing Lawyer" so "my husband" he shall remain.  Anyhow, he has designed some fabric for himself, which he had printed up at Spoonflower.  The motif is trilobites.  These ones are from the Ordovician era (488 to 443 million years ago, give or take).  In our city (Ottawa, Ontario, Canada), the sedimentary rock was laid down in this time period and fossils of trilobites and other creatures of the time can be found, if one looks carefully.

The fabric is Spoonflower's bamboo and cotton blend rayon ($27US per yard).  It's very smooth and nice.  I haven't prewashed it yet but will do so and report on shrinkage.

My husband created the image using rubber stamps cut out of gigantic pink erasers.  The stamped images were then coloured with chalk pastel and scanned.  He manipulated the scanned image using PhotoShop.  Stencils were also involved.  The resulting print is very attractive, and it's going to be my job to turn it into a truly one-of-a-kind shirt.  Stay tuned.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

An Amazing Jacket

A friend of mine actually likes to shop, and she finds the most astonishing things at thrift shops. Today, I'm going to show you one of her finds. She bought it because it was too good to leave in the store, even though it didn't fit her. I'm the beneficiary and have had the pleasure of owning this jacket for several years. I'm now in the process of replacing the lining, which was shredding. I thought to document the jacket before proceeding.

So, I introduce to you my vintage Auckie Sanft jacket. I can't say exactly when this was made but it was probably the mid-1970s. It is very close fitting and came with a mid-knee length, matching A-line skirt with a plain back and large box-pleated front. The skirt never fit but I have worn the jacket a lot.

Auckie Sanft was a high-quality Montreal manufacturer. Perhaps this jacket was designed by John Warden, though maybe not, as it seems Warden did not work with Auckie Sanft for long. Whoever was responsible for it was a master.

There are several things about this jacket that are special. First, the fabric. This jacket is made from beautiful Linton Tweed. "There has never been a Chanel collection without Linton tweeds", apparently (according to a 2004 story on Scotsman.com News). I believe it! This fabric is absolutely luscious. It's predominantly cream, with novelty threads in silky/shiny white, dark blue and white, and soft grey woven through it to create an irregular plaid. The label says 83% wool, 17% acrylic. From a distance, a little unfortunately, it looks like a horizontally-striped jacket. No matter, it's gorgeous! Here's the back.

The stripiness of the fabric tells an interesting story. First, it's beautifully matched at all body seams, and the sleeve cap matches perfectly, but only in the back. Hmmmm. In the front, the sleeve cap is not matched to the jacket at the armscye, but the sleeve and body do match lower down.

This is a mystery! The solution is that the upper pocket flap disguises a little seam which does not match. It has something to do with the bust shaping provided by the princess seam.

The designer used what I believe was the darker blue selvedge edge of the fabric to provide a coordinating trim found on the pocket flaps, collar and back belt.

The next feature of the jacket is that the maker has reduced bulk almost everywhere by using lining fabric as facing - the collar, pocket flaps and front are lined to the edge.

There is also very very little internal structure in the jacket. There is a very light shoulder pad and very light-weight and supple canvas (possibly linen?) at the front edges, around the armscye, and behind the pocket flaps. The chest area has a single layer of a slightly stiffer woven interfacing. The back shield and hem interfacing are the softer canvas, cut on the bias. I believe there is no interfacing at all in either the collar or pocket flaps!

Here are some photos of the details.

Only the lapel area, sleeve hems and vents are not faced with thin lining fabric. The sleeve hems are bulky! But check out the Chanel buttons. Are they real??

Check out all photos in more detail at my Flickr page.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Obligatory lame first post

I don't really have time for this... But sometimes it may be good to have a place to record what I'm working on.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Two different views from Illinois and Colorado about business in Panama


Statements for the Record: Any individual or organization wanting to present their views for inclusion in the hearing record should submit a typewritten, single-spaced statement, not exceeding 10 pages in length. Title and date of the hearing, and the full name and address of the individual or organization must appear on the first page of the statement.
Statements must be received no later than two weeks following the conclusion of the hearing.
Statements should be mailed (not faxed) to:
Senate Committee on Finance
Attn. Editorial and Document Section
Rm. SD-219
Dirksen Senate Office Bldg.
Washington, DC 20510-6200b

Hearing of the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance On "The U.S.-Panama Trade Promotion Agreement"
Thursday, May 21, 2009 10:00 a.m.
215 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Testimony by Mr. James Owens
Chairman and CEO, Caterpillar, Inc. Peoria, Illinois on behalf of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Business Roundtable and the Latin American Trade Coalition
Caterpillar Washington Office 1425 K Street, NW, Suite 400, Washington, D.C. 20005, (202) 466-0672
Chairman Baucus, Ranking Member Grassley, Members of the Committee:
I’m Jim Owens, Chairman and CEO of Caterpillar, Inc. Today, I have the honor to testify on behalf of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Business Roundtable and the Latin American Trade Coalition in support of the U.S.-Panama Trade Promotion Agreement (also known as the Panama TPA or "TPA").
First a word about the organizations that I represent: - Caterpillar is the world-leading producer of construction and mining machines as well as diesel and gas turbine engines. We are also one of America’s largest exporters.
- The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is the world’s largest business federation, representing three million businesses of every size, sector, and region.
- The Business Roundtable is an association of chief executive officers of leading U.S.
companies with $4.5 trillion in annual revenues and more than 10 million employees.
- The 1,200-member strong Latin American Trade Coalition is a broad-based group of U.S. companies, business and agricultural organizations, and local chambers of commerce and other groups representing the largest and most dynamic sectors of our economy.
My company and the business organizations I represent today firmly believe that international trade has a critical role in fostering economic growth for America’s workers, farmers and businesses. The Panama TPA and agreements like it promote sustainable economic growth both here at home and in the economies of our trading partners - in this case a close neighbor and ally, Panama.
The United States has negotiated, signed and implemented successful trade agreements in the Western Hemisphere with Canada, Mexico, Chile, Central America and the Dominican Republic, and Peru. The Panama TPA promises to build on impressive U.S.
export gains in the region.
I’m pleased to report that Caterpillar exports have dramatically benefited from all these free trade agreements (FTAs). Since the FTAs have gone into effect, Cat exports last year quadrupled to the NAFTA countries, tripled to Chile, and nearly doubled to the CAFTA-DR countries.
We believe the Panama agreement will be no exception. The Panama TPA is a frontloaded, ambitious, and comprehensive agreement, with considerable benefits to both the United States and Panama. Most of the tariff cuts on American products will occur as soon as the agreement goes into effect.
The agreement will substantially improve market access for American farm products, consumer and industrial goods, and services in Panama, and it will bolster the rule of law, investor protections, internationally recognized workers’ rights, and transparency and accountability in business and government. The agreement’s strong intellectual property rules and related enforcement provisions will help protect and promote America’s dynamic innovation-based industries and creative artists. The opportunities created by lowering tariff and non-tariff barriers to U.S.-Panama trade and investment promise to expand two-way trade opportunities and lift living standards in both countries.
Beyond the purely commercial benefits, the agreement will also strengthen the century-old U.S.-Panama geostrategic partnership. From the time of the Panama Canal’s construction, the United States and Panama have made common cause on issues from security to commerce. Panama has major ports to both the Atlantic and the Pacific, and the Canal is a major transit point for world trade. With one-third of its population speaking English fluently and a fully dollarized economy, Panama is a good friend and partner of the United States. The TPA offers critical support and stronger ties to this close ally in Latin America, a region where attitudes toward the United States and the values it represents - including democracy, transparency and governmental accountability - have taken a decided turn for the worse in many countries.
In Panama, the May 3 election of Ricardo Martinelli to succeed Martin Torrijos as President of Panama signals a continued commitment to close ties to the United States at a time when a number of countries in the region are taking a different course. President-elect Martinelli has called the TPA his new administration’s "number one priority." Panama’s legislature displayed similar enthusiasm with a strong vote in favor of the TPA shortly after its signing, which incorporated new labor and environmental provisions reflected in the May 10 (2007) Bipartisan Agreement on Trade. Both the Panamanian administration and the legislature have been responsible partners in working to meet the additional requests that have subsequently been raised by the U.S. Congress and administration.
Looking forward, the agreement with Panama is an important step in the U.S. strategy to promote trade liberalization and economic integration with the region. As well as being a gateway from the Pacific to the Atlantic, Panama is a literal and figurative bridge between Central and North America on one end and South America on the other. U.S. total exports to trade agreement partners in the Western Hemisphere reached $471 billion in 2008. This region represents a significant and growing market that has largely avoided the worst of the current economic crisis. We urge Congressional consideration of the trade agreements with Panama and Colombia as the next step in this important strategy.
Opening Markets Above all else, the TPA further opens Panama’s market to products and services made by American workers, farmers, and companies. Panama’s purchases of U.S.
manufactured goods and farm products reached $4.6 billion last year, and the $4.2 billion U.S. merchandise trade surplus with Panama in 2008 was among the largest with any country. Goods exports to Panama from Illinois - where Caterpillar is headquartered - have grown quickly in recent years, surpassing $110 million in 2008, led by rapid growth in exports of machinery.
The United States is far and away Panama’s largest trading partner, with a 33% share of Panama’s imports, and purchasing 36% of all Panamanian exports. The $5.25 billion expansion of the Panama Canal is now moving ahead and presents significant opportunities for U.S. companies to provide goods and services to the government of Panama as they embark on one of the largest public works project since the Three Gorges Dam in China.
We are also excited about construction of a new metro system in Panama City and the Petaquilla mine, which will be the 5th largest copper mine in the world.
The trade agreement will grant U.S. firms outstanding access to the Panamanian market and the chance to compete in selling everything from heavy equipment to engineering services.
U.S. export success in Panama comes despite a fundamental imbalance in the proverbial playing field. The United States unilaterally opened its market to Panama and its neighbors through the Caribbean Basin Initiative in 1983 and expanded that access through successive acts with the support of strong bipartisan majorities in Congress. Currently, under the Caribbean Basin Trade Partnership Act (CBTPA), fully 96% of all imports from Panama already enter the U.S. market duty-free. By contrast, Panama’s average applied duty on imports of manufactured goods is 10%, and agricultural products face even higher tariffs. In other words, Panama enjoys virtually free access to our marketplace, while U.S. products continue to be taxed at steep rates when entering Panama.
The unilateral preferences have always been subject to re-authorization by Congress with no guarantees that they would be continued. Without the extension of these preferential programs, Panama risks immediately losing a significant part of its exports. Losing access to the U.S. market would hurt the Panamanian economy resulting in lost jobs and a lower standard of living.
The TPA makes Panama’s favorable access to our markets permanent and provides additional benefits in the form of improved market functioning and enhanced economic growth. In other words, the TPA will provide continuity in a long-term U.S. policy with regard to Panama - one that boosts economic development and reinforces democratic consolidation.
The TPA will also cut Panama’s tariffs on U.S. products, and as a result it will transform an imbalanced trade relationship into a more mutually beneficial, reciprocal partnership. The day the agreement enters into force, 88% of Panama’s tariffs on U.S.
consumer and industrial goods and a majority of the tariffs on U.S. farm exports will be eliminated. In turn, the agreement locks in Panama’s access to the U.S. market, creating a new level of certainty for investors and traders in that country.
The Rule of Law
Intellectual Property: The agreement will strengthen protection and enforcement of U.S. trademarks, patents, and geographic indicators, internet domain names and copyrighted works, creating new opportunities for U.S. innovation-based and creative industries in Panama. In specific terms, the Panama TPA includes strong intellectual property enforcement mechanisms and penalties provisions, including the criminalization of end-user piracy and counterfeiting and the authority to seize and destroy not only counterfeit goods but also the equipment used to produce them. The agreement also provides necessary mechanisms to fight the problem of trans-shipment of counterfeit goods with specific provisions that are aimed at goods-in-transit.
Investment Protections and Dispute Settlement: U.S. direct investors in Panama will benefit from the strong investment chapter in the agreement, particularly the sections dealing with investment protections and dispute settlement. The agreement provides for rights that are consistent with U.S. law and also contains fully transparent dispute settlement procedures that are open to the public and allow interested parties to provide their input. As such, these trade agreements provide an opportunity for the partner countries to improve their investment climate by undertaking legal and judicial reforms and resolving investment disputes (e.g., the criminalization of commercial disputes).
Increased Transparency: The agreement’s dispute settlement mechanisms provide for open public hearings, public access to documents, and the opportunity for third parties to submit views. Transparency in customs operations will aid express delivery shipments, and will require more open and public processes for customs rulings and administration. For customs procedures, Panama committed to publish laws and regulations on the Internet and, to the extent possible, will publish proposed regulations in advance and allow interested parties an opportunity to comment on the proposals. Moreover, transparency in these areas is an essential tool in combating corruption and promoting habits of transparency in government.
Like much of Latin America, Central America struggles against corruption, which undermines growth, security, and stability. The Panama TPA contains critical provisions to enhance transparency and accountability in governance, providing the countries with important tools to fight the scourge of corruption. As an example, the agreement provides for the criminalization of bribery in government procurement, providing for better and more efficient procurement on the part of the Panamanian government entities but also affording a more competitive marketplace.
Environmental stewardship has long been a priority for Panamanians as the Canal is dependent on protection of the forests in the huge watershed that allows this engineering marvel to function. The Canal expansion now underway is expected to allow 70% of the fresh water that was previously lost from the locks to be recycled, saving 28-35 million gallons per ship, 40-50 times per day.
The Panama TPA also promotes U.S. security interests by forging a deeper partnership with Panama through a framework for government-to-government relationships that is grounded in the tangible national interests of all parties. Such a framework is vital to enhancing cooperation in numerous areas, including tax information exchange; it also sets an example for other countries around the world as we pursue our global security goals. By promoting economic growth in Panama, the TPA will give a boost to its economy and provide its citizens with long-term growth opportunities.
That concludes my remarks. At this time I would be pleased to answer any questions.
Thank you very much.

The Meneren Corporation
4610 South Ulster Street, Suite 150 • Denver, CO 80237 • (303) 221-3369 • Fax (303) 972-8669
7 June 2008

Senate Committee on Finance
Attn. Darci Vetter
Rm. SD-219
Dirksen Senate Office Bldg.
Washington, DC 20510-6200b

Subject: Corruption in Panama, Human Rights Abuse and Trade Agreements

Dear Darci and Committee Members:
I am writing you regarding a serious foreign relations matter regarding the Republic of Panama and the corruption of its legal system and the regular and organized abuse of US Citizens and their civil and human rights—all of which should be considered in any discussion of trade agreements.
I am one of many Colorado businessmen (and a number of CO Corporations and LLC’s) who have been actively doing business in Panama for the past 3 years. During that time, I have witnessed first-hand the extend of the corruption of the Panama legal system, and the systematic robbing of US and Canadian investors (both professionals and retiree’s) by cabals of Panamanian attorney’s, prosecutors, law enforcement officials and other government officials—
all the way to the Supreme Court. I having seen it firsthand and discussed it in detail with the Americans and Canadians who have suffered financially and personally because of it. It is a travesty that should not be rewarded with a Free Trade Agreement of any form.
The most public example of this corruption can be seen in the case of the handling of the estate of Wilson Lucom, a past advisor to the US Secretary of State and his attorney, Richard Lehman, a Florida attorney and US citizen, who has been for 3 years attempting to prevent one of the Panamanian oligarchy’s from stealing the $50+M estate of Wilson Lucom—which Lucom left to the orphans of Panama in the largest ever bequeath of its kind.
The Panamanian government/authorities have relentlessly abused the civil and human rights of Mr. Lehman as he tried to protect the Lucom state, to ensure the money reaches the poor children of Panama and the Charity formed to accept it. This story has received major press coverage in the US and Panama.
You can see the full litany of false charges, false arrests, assaults on the Civil and Human Rights of this US citizen in the documents filed with the Organization of American States, at: http://www.lehmantaxlaw.com/RSL_/62667387_1.PDF http://www.lehmantaxlaw.com/RSL_/62667382_1.PDF
It is important to note that in November 2008 the head of the Panama Governments National Council of Transparency for Corruption, Alma Montenegro de Fletcher, herself published a finding that found “extreme abuse of the Panamanian civil and penal system”, noting the false arrest of a US Citizen who was defending the interests of the children of Panama, Mr. Lehman, a Florida attorney and long time friend and lawyer for Wilson Lucom. The details of Alma’s letter to the Panama Supreme Court can be found at the following (translated) website:
To be clear, neither I, nor my business associates are a part of the Probate dispute that Mr. Lehman is battling in Panama. However, when Mr. Lehman was recently detained illegally in Panama—again—I was so upset that a US Citizen could be so abused by the Panamanian government and corrupt legal system that I wrote a “Call to Action” that was circulated among the expatriate community in Panama. As a result, I have received numerous other horror stories from US and Canadian businessmen and retiree’s detailing the systematic pillage of their retirement monies, trust funds, and properties by lawyers acting in concert with local and federal government officials (prosecutors and judges), all with impunity! One of these relates how the Panamanian attorney that stole her retirement monies told her to her face that he robbed her and that there was nothing she could do about it because he was a member of the Panamanian legislature. I would be most happy to share the details of these and other similar cases with you or your staff.
As a businessman, I have done business in many of the ugly parts of the world (Congo, Yemen, Kazakhstan, China etc.) and I understood their corrupt systems before setting foot on the ground. However, Panama holds itself out to US retiree’s and businesses as being a US friendly country that has a US currency, US provided infrastructure and institutions, statutory protections for US Citizens (including a guarantee of “equal access” under the law), and preferential agreements with the US government (FTA’s). US and Canadian citizens are entranced by this façade to make major investments in Panama totally unaware of the extent of corruption of their judiciary and other government officials. This is a recipe for disaster for US interests, and damages the future of the Panamanian people as well.
When we contacted the US Embassy in Panama over a year ago to describe how our firm/project was being manipulated by the corrupt courts and officials, we found a sympathetic ear and could see some effort was being made to press the Government to “clean up their legal system”. Unfortunately, when the Ambassador and key staff changed, the Embassy position turned to one of indifference coupled with a clear desire not to press the issue with the Government. As a result, US Citizens like Mr. Richard Lehman and many others who we have documented, have been, and continue to be abused with impunity.
As a US Citizen, I am shocked that our Government allows this to continue—with impunity and that our Government is willing to turn a blind eye to it by rewarding Panama with a trade agreement that prospers Panama. I ask that you have your staff research the human rights case mentioned and provided above and use it as a symptomatic reason for opposing any further Free Trade Agreements with Panama until it cleans up the corruption. Until then, I also ask that US State Department US Citizen advisories be updated to sternly warn US investors and retiree’s of the escalation in the organized abuse of foreigners by a corrupt judiciary working in concert with unscrupulous lawyers and government officials.
Thank you for your attention to this urgent matter.

William A. Tolbert

Senate Finance Committee Hearing on "The U.S. - Panama Trade Promotion Agreement" May 21, 2009 http://finance.senate.gov/hearings/hearing/?id=d88a7f79-c7e0-8ee8-4f2d-226447ffbbe7

Panama FTA will create US jobs http://lawyerfuture.blogspot.com/2009/05/panama-fta-will-create-us-jobs.html

US-Panama Free Trade Links http://www.uspanamatrade.org .