Despite the increasing importance of air transport, the U.S. is the canal's primary user, and more than half of the seaborne traffic passing through the Panama Canal each year has a U.S. origin or destination. Both countries reap the economic benefits: the U.S. gets safe, efficient passage for its goods, and Panama earns significant revenue.
U.S. trade is growing faster with the countries of Latin America than with any other region, except Africa, and Panama is one of the United States' most important trading partners.
Last year, bilateral trade between the U.S. and Panama totaled $4.1 billion, up by nearly one billion since the previous year. One third of Panama's imports come from the United States, and 36 percent of its total exports are bound for the U.S.
One of the reasons for this success story is Panama's willingness to embrace free-market policies by eliminating tariffs and other barriers to the free flow of goods and services. U.S. Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez, in a speech to the U.S.-Panama Business Council in Washington, D.C., said, "Panama is a key partner in the new 'Pathways to Prosperity in the Americas' initiative". This measure, designed to enhance the flow of international trade and investment among the U.S., Panama, and 10 other Latin American nations, supports democracy, open markets and broad-based economic growth.