OTTAWA, ONTARIO — Panama has approved Canada's meat inspection system and lifted the ban on Canadian beef imposed in 2003 because of a bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) discovery in that country, announced Stockwell Day, Minister of International Trade and Minister for the Asia-Pacific Gateway, and Gerry Ritz, Federal Agriculture Minister, on Aug. 11.

Approving Canada's meat inspection system allows Canadian exporters to ship beef and pork from all federally-registered Canadian meat establishments.

"I'm pleased to see Panama recognizes Canada produces safe, high-quality beef and pork products, and I encourage all countries in Latin America to open their doors," Mr. Ritz said.

"This is an important development in relations between our two countries," added Mr. Day. "The opening of this market for Canadian beef creates opportunities that will make a difference to the bottom line for Canadian producers. It also shows this government is committed to fighting for full access and fair treatment worldwide for Canadian business."

Canada and Panama recently concluded negotiations on a comprehensive free-trade agreement covering goods, services and investment, among other areas. Parallel accords on labor cooperation and the environment were also negotiated.