A free trade accord between the United States and Panama will take effect at the end of this month, the countries announced Monday. They exchanged formal notices, which was the last requirement for the agreement to kick in. \"Under this comprehensive agreement, Panama will eliminate tariffs and other barriers to US exports, which will promote economic growth, and expand trade between our two countries,\" US Trade Representative Ron Kirk said. The announcement came just weeks after Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli signed law into legislation that protects intellectual property and patents and creates conflict-resolution mechanisms. These were necessary for there to be a free-trade accord with the United States. The US Congress approved the accord back in October 2011, along with US agreements with Colombia and South Korea. The one with Panama had been due to take effect at the start of the month, but was held up until Panama promulgated the intellectual property protection and other laws. The accord, originally negotiated in 2007, will allow US products such as rice and sugar to enter the Panamanian market with gradually reduced tariffs. This has alarmed Panamanian producers of these goods. Panama is attractive to the United States because of its strategic location and the ongoing enlargement of the Panama Canal, through which two-thirds of US trade passes. Sales of US goods to Panama in 2010 totaled more than $8.2 billion. Under the new accord, the United States sees this figure rising to more than $20 billion.