US VP Biden on economic mission to Panama: plans tour of canal expansion, talks with president

PANAMA CITY – U.S. Vice-President Joseph Biden has arrived in Panama for an economic mission that will include touring the Panama Canal expansion project.

Biden has said the $5.2 billion project scheduled to be completed by 2015 presents a challenge to U.S. ports that need to expand to receive the new, larger container ships that will pass through the waterway. The expansion aims to double the cargo going through the canal, which was first opened in 1914 by the U.S.

Panamanian Foreign Minister Fernando Nunez Fabrega greeted Biden at the airport Monday night. Biden will have a day of events Tuesday with President Ricardo Martinelli, who says the agenda will also include bilateral trade and security issues.

The U.S. handed over the administration of the canal to Panama in 1999.