(Adds Pence, Varela comments on Venezuela)
PANAMA CITY, Aug 17 (Reuters) - U.S. Vice President Mike Pence said on Thursday that Washington wants more trade and investment with Latin America, pushing back against perceptions in the region that the Trump administration has an isolationist agenda.
Speaking during a visit to the Panama Canal at the end of a Latin American tour, Pence said the United States was seeking to keep the spirit of the original North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in the pact now being renegotiated in Washington.
Pence said he wanted a NAFTA deal that was a “win, win, win” for the United States, Mexico and Canada, taking a more conciliatory tone than U.S. negotiators who have warned the deal needed a major overhaul to favor U.S. workers.
Pence later reiterated the United States’ concerns about the tense political situation in Venezuela, but took a more measured approach than U.S. President Donald Trump.
Last week, Trump said the United States had “many options for Venezuela including a possible military option if necessary.”
Pence said on Thursday that Venezuela was becoming a dictatorship and that the United States would not stand by while it was destroyed.
He said he was sure the United States, with its allies in Latin America, would find a peaceful solution to the situation in Venezuela.
Panama’s President Juan Carlos Varela voiced concern over Venezuela and said that Panama would in the coming days announce measures against it, including immigration actions, to pressure Caracas into restoring democratic order. (Reporting by Elida Moreno; Editing by Tom Brown, Toni Reinhold)