Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders saw the Panama Papers scandal coming from a mile off after he questioned the motives behind the Panama Trade Agreement back in 2011, denouncing the agreement and citing the country's reputation for being a tax haven.
“Panama is a very small country. No one can legitimately claim that approving this free trade agreement will significantly increase American jobs,” Sanders said at the beginning of his talk.
“It turns out that Panama is a world leader when it comes to allowing wealthy Americans and large corporations to evade U.S. taxes by stashing their cash in offshore tax havens,“ Sanders explained.
"Each and every year, the wealthiest people in this country and the largest corporations evade about US$100 billion in taxes through abusive and illegal offshore tax havens in Panama and in other countries," he added.
The Panama Trade Promotion Agreement, or TPA, entered into force on Oct. 31, 2012 and is a comprehensive free trade agreement that eliminates tariffs and removes barriers to U.S. services, including financial services.
The former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton praised the agreement just a day after Sanders gave his speech in front of Congress, citing the very same myth of job creation that Sanders had brought into question.
“These initiatives are the leading edge of a job-creating trade agenda that will open markets, level the playing field for our businesses and workers, and champion America’s working families in an age of tough global competition,” Hillary said.
“They deserve the historic and widespread support they received in Congress tonight. We will continue our work to rebuild an American consensus on trade," she continued.
An email earlier this week also revealed that the U.S. State Department was aware of the Panama deal's potential to help the rich hide money.
During his speech, Sanders quoted Citizens for Tax Justice, a D.C.-based advocacy and lobbying think tank, which point out that a "tax haven has one of three characteristics. It has no income tax or a very low-rate income tax, it has bank secrecy laws, and it has a history with non-cooperation with other countries on exchanging information about tax matters. Panama has all three of those and they are probably the worst.”
“Panama is also listed by the State Department as a major venue for Mexican and Colombian drug cartel money laundering. Should we be rewarding this country with a free trade agreement? I think the answer should be a resounding no," the Vermont senator added.