Today the City of Tampa began the first day as host of new Free Trade negotiations between the U.S. and Panama.

Tampa is the 4th site of such negotiations.....The city is considered an ideal location because it has the closest major U.S. port to the Central American nation, and because of its significance for business and politics in the U.S.

The 5 day Conference began with a Business Forum at the Tampa Waterside Marriot...But outside the Marrioit, activists who fear an impending trade agreement between the U.S and other Central American countries protested the meeting.

Eric Rubin is the State Director of the Florida Fair Trade Coalition (roll tape#1 o.q."standard operation procedure")

Rubin says this week's bi-lateral negotiations between the U.S. and Panama are a prelude to CAFTA - The Central American Free Trade Agreement -which will include 6 Central American countries , though not actually Panama. Again, Eric Rubin (roll tape#2 o.q."

As well")

Molina Fray from the Florida Fair Trade Coalition says there is a specific reason to block CAFTA - (roll tape#3 o.q." a greater chance of happening")

Rubin explains why CAFTA, as well as the Free Trade Area of the Americas negotiations - and the one this week between Tampa and Panama - affect all citizens (roll tape#4 o.q."wherever they go")

Katlin Martin also works for the Florida Fair Trade Coalition...She described some of the problems with so called Free Trade Agreements (roll tape#5 o.q." very fair for anyone")

David Cutting is the Democratic Candidate for Hillsborough County in District 2..He said he showed up at the protest with his 2 year old daughter, and he said he could only hope when she is grown up she'll be able to GET a job in the U.S

(roll tape#6 o.q. "expense of American labor")

Willis K.C. Bowick is running as a Democrat for County Commission in Hillsborough County's District 6...He thought it was good for Tampa and Hillsborough County to be hosting this week's bi-lateral meetings with Panama, but not if it the end results take away American jobs (roll tape#7 o.q."take care of home, first")

The Panama -U.S. Meeting continue at the Tampa Marriott Waterside runs thru this Friday.

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