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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release December 14, 1999


Today, we commemorate the transfer of the Panama Canal from the United States to the Republic of Panama. The official transfer will take place on December 31 in fulfillment of the Panama Canal Treaties of 1978. I am delighted that President Carter, under whose leadership the Canal Treaties were concluded and ratified, is heading a distinguished delegation of Americans to today's historic event.

To this day, the Panama Canal remains one of the great engineering marvels of the world. The Canal played a critical role in the development of global commerce and contributed to the rise of the United States as a great power. As we look back on this century, we should pay tribute to the skill, vision and tenacity of those who conceived and built this magnificent waterway.

The decision made in the 1970's to transfer the Canal to Panama, ratified by treaty and supported by a broad bipartisan consensus, demonstrated the goodwill of the American people. It reflected the wisdom and foresight of American leaders who saw that our national interests at the end of the 20th Century were best served by transferring the Canal to Panama; that this act could help improve relations between the United States and its neighbors. Since that time, the United States has worked to strengthen democracy, prosperity and cooperation in our hemisphere, and thereby benefit our citizens at home. At the edge of a new century, the Canal, long a symbol of American power and prestige, now also symbolizes the unity and common purpose of the democratic nations of the Americas.

Today's ceremony underscores our confidence in the Government of Panama and the Panamanian people's ability to manage this vital artery of commerce. It also signals our continuing commitment to the security of the Canal, as enshrined in our treaty obligations, and our determination to work with Panama and the many other countries that use the Canal to ensure that it remains open to the world's shipping and commerce.

I commend the government of President Moscoso for its leadership and spirit of cooperation. The United States will continue to work closely with Panama to safeguard the Canal and promote the well-being of our citizens and people around the world.