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Cargo ships wait en route to Panama Canal - 

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Scott Jagow: Today, the Secretary of State goes to Panama. Panama has long been a center of trade with its trademark canal. Now, the country's trying to promote free trade throughout the hemisphere. From our Americas Desk at WLRN, Dan Grech reports.


Dan Grech: On Wednesday, Panama hosts a 12-nation summit called "Pathways to Prosperity in the Americas." The United States will be there. So will the 11 countries in the hemisphere that have signed or are negotiating a free trade deal with the U.S.

Federico Humbert is Panama's Ambassador to the U.S.:

Federico Humbert: All of our countries are true believers in the importance of global integration and to make sure that the benefits of such passes to every single strata of our societies.

He says the true path to prosperity is closer ties to the U.S., even during this downturn.

Humbert: Without a doubt, the benefits that our countries -- mine included -- have had because of good relationships with our neighbors here to the north outweigh the liabilities or the problems that we may be having right now.

Panama is betting big on trade. It's spending $5 billion to expand its canal to accommodate more and bigger ships.

I'm Dan Grech for Marketplace.