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Visit to Panama Remarks on Signing the Protocol of Exchange of Instruments of Ratification Regarding the Panama Canal Treaties.

June 16, 1978

General Torrijos, President Lakas, president Perez, President Lopez Michelson, President Lopez Portillo, President Carazo, Prime Minister Manley, distinguished guests and friends:

First of all, I want to thank General Torrijos and President Lakas for their invitation to participate in this great ceremony.

I came to Panama and accepted this invitation, because I want to dramatize my appreciation for this great achievement—a firmer, more productive friendship between the United States of America and the Republic of Panama and, more broadly, a gain for the cause of peace and cooperation among all nations.

We are honored by the presence of the leaders of the five democratic countries who gave encouragement to us and advice to both nations during the final treaty negotiations. I'm grateful to them not only for the serious and helpful role they played in those final days and weeks but also for their continuing leadership in dealing with such crucial matters as world peace, nuclear nonproliferation, the status of human rights and democratic governments, and better relationships between the developed nations and the developing countries of the world.

It is now three quarters of a century since the first spade of earth was turned in the building of the Panama Canal. This path between two seas remains one of the greatest and most benevolent creations ever wrought by human labor and by human ingenuity.

As a neutral artery for the ships of all nations, the canal has contributed immensely to the peaceful work of the world. The treaties we solemnize today will help perpetuate that peaceful work for many generations to come.

Under the treaties, our two governments agree to maintain the neutrality and security of the canal. At the same time, we reaffirm our commitment to honor national sovereignty and the principle of nonintervention. These principles are enshrined in the charters of the Organization of American States and the United Nations.

During the long and difficult negotiations, both sides held to a vision of friendship and good will. Both sides were determined to build a new relationship of mutual respect, fairness, and equity. Because of that vision, because of that determination, we were finally able to reach agreement.

Now, after 14 years on opposite sides of the bargaining table, we sit together as partners. We are equally committed to putting into practice the agreements we have forged. During the period of transition which lies ahead, the United States and Panama will be working closely together. Both our countries want that transition to be smooth and effective.

Under the treaties, both nations are committed to safeguarding the interests of those Americans and Panamanians who have operated the canal so efficiently and so expertly during its period of American stewardship.

Together, our two countries have set an example for peaceful and successful negotiation that has few parallels in history. We have demonstrated our mutual sincerity and good will. In the face of disagreements not only between the two nations but within the nations themselves, disagreements that were initially very deep, in the face of our vast disparity in size and power, we dealt with each other in good faith as equals and with equal determination to overcome all differences.

During the years ahead we will work as partners to make the promise of the treaties a reality. We, the people of the United States, and you, the people of Panama, still have history to make together.

Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 4:25 p.m. at the Coliseo-Gimnasio Nuevo Panama (Panama City Coliseum) in response to remarks by General Torrijos.

Also present at the ceremony were President Carlos Andres Perez of Venezuela, President Alfonso Lopez Michelsen of Colombia, President Jose Lopez Portillo of Mexico, President Rodrigo Carazo Odio of Costa Rica, and Prime Minister Michael N. Manley of Jamaica.

Jimmy Carter, Visit to Panama Remarks on Signing the Protocol of Exchange of Instruments of Ratification Regarding the Panama Canal Treaties. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/248752

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