Viewing cable 05PANAMA2200
Title: AMBASSADOR EATON DISCUSSES PANAMA CANAL EXPANSION

IdentifierCreatedReleasedClassificationOrigin
05PANAMA22002005-11-04 17:49:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Panama
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 PANAMA 002200 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SENSITIVE 
 
DEPARTMENT ALSO FOR WHA/CEN AND EUR/WE 
SOUTHCOM ALSO FOR POLAD 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PREL EINV CMGT PM FR POL CHIEF
SUBJECT: AMBASSADOR EATON DISCUSSES PANAMA CANAL EXPANSION 
WITH FRENCH AMBASSADOR 
 
SUMMARY 
------- 
¶1. (U) Ambassador William Eaton met with French Ambassador to 
Panama Christophe Philibert on October 31, 2005.  The 
ambassadors discussed French interests in Panama, President 
Bush,s November 6-7 visit to Panama, and French ambitions 
for Panama Canal expansion.  End Summary. 
 
French Economic Interests in Panama 
----------------------------------- 
¶2. (SBU) French interests in Panama are primarily economic. 
France supports expansion of the Panama Canal and plans to 
participate in the expansion Amb. Philibert said, adding that 
he hopes President Bush will make a statement supporting 
Canal expansion during his upcoming visit. Ambassador Eaton 
responded that President Bush probably would avoid making a 
statement on Canal expansion, preferring to let the 
Panamanians decide the Canal,s fate.  Amb. Philibert said 
that many of today,s massive freighters are too big for the 
Canal,s 110-foot wide locks.  If the Canal does not expand, 
he believes, it risks becoming a regional, rather than global 
canal. 
 
French Companies On The Make 
---------------------------- 
¶3.  (SBU) Philibert said two or three French companies, 
namely Tractebel Development Engineering, Coynet-Bellier, 
Tehnum N.V. and Compagnie Nationale du Rhone, are working on 
expansion plans and studying the viability of a third set of 
locks.  If the Panama Canal Authority (ACP) chooses to expand 
the Canal, Philibert expects a multinational effort.  French 
firms face strong international competition from China, 
Japan, the U.S., and various European nations vying for 
expansion contracts, he added.  French firms also are also 
interested in the Panama City-Colonhighway project.  A 
Mexican construction firm, PYCSA, originally had a contract 
to complete the Panama City-Colon motorway but the Panamanian 
government suspended the contract after alleged violations. 
French companies are interested in bidding on the contract if 
it is reopened to competition. 
 
French Tourism Declines After Air Crash 
--------------------------------------- 
¶4. (SBU) French tourism suffered a blow, Philibert said, from 
an August 19, 2005 plane crash in Venezuela that killed all 
160 aboard, mostly tourists from French Martinique returning 
from a week in Panama.  The number of French tourists 
visiting Panama decreased significantly after the crash. 
West Caribbean Airways, which offered Martinique-Panama 
charter flights, was grounded pending investigation of the 
accident.  There are no direct flights between Panama and 
France, Amb. Philibert said. 
 
French Consular Affairs in Panama 
--------------------------------- 
¶5.  (SBU) Roughly 700 expatriate French citizens live in 
Panama, with the majority married to Panamanian citizens. 
The Consular Section of the French Embassy has gotten tough 
on visa issuance, particularly since the implementation of 
the Schengen visa, which allows travel to thirteen E.U. 
countries, Iceland, and Norway.  Visas to France are not 
required for Panamanian citizens, but the French Embassy 
accepts applications from third-country nationals, including 
citizens of Colombia, Ecuador, the Dominican Republic, and 
Peru.  It is fairly routine for French consular officers to 
investigate visa applicant,s hotel reservations and other 
points of contact and deny visas on suspicion of drug 
trafficking, where appropriate. 
 
Chirac Visit Not On 
------------------- 
¶6.  (SBU) Amb. Philibert said rumors that Pres. Chirac will 
visit Panama are unfounded.  No French president has ever 
visited Panama, although in his opinion, such a visit is 
warranted. 
 
Gratitude? 
---------- 
¶7.  (SBU) Amb. Philibert expressed his view that the 
Panamanians are at times insufficiently grateful to the U.S. 
for its role in constructing the Canal.  He said that he 
hopes that there will be no violent demonstrations during 
Pres. Bush,s visit. 
 
EATON