On the heels of President Obama's trip to Canada to reassure trade partners about the "Buy American" provision of his stimulus bill, I'd like to suggest another tack: buy pan-American. Given the company's name, Canadian miner Pan American Silver (NASDAQ:PAAS) offers one non-protectionist way to buy American.

With weakness in the U.S. dollar looking increasingly likely going forward, I believe that silver is often overlooked relative to gold as a precious safe haven. I recently suggested to Fools at my Motley Fool CAPS blog that silver is more precious than gold, and as the pain of a difficult fourth quarter subsides, it seems Pan American Silver could deliver substantial leverage to silver price movements.

It should come as no surprise that Pan American posted dismal fourth-quarter results last week. Its loss was $33.3 million, revenue was down 46%, and negative cash flow from operating activities was $4.9 million, reflecting an unprecedented collapse in metals prices (silver prices fell from nearly $21 in March 2008 to less than $9 in October). Pan American adapted quickly to the challenges, contributing to the writedowns that offset earnings, and emerges a very focused silver producer with two major projects approaching commercial production in 2009.

After a hair-raising increase in costs to $8.24 per ounce of silver in the fourth quarter, Pan American expects costs of $6.28 per ounce for 2009 as the low-cost Manantial Espejo mine ramps up and the San Vicente expansion project goes online. That cost projection leaves plenty of wiggle room for profit with silver prices above $14, and it opens the door for Pan American to continue chasing recent outperformers like Silver Wheaton (NYSE:SLW) and Silver Standard Resources (NASDAQ:SSRI).

Unlike competitors Hecla Mining (NYSE:HL) and Coeur d'Alene Mines (NYSE:CDE), Pan American Silver still boasts a debt-free balance sheet. Throughout the precious-metals mining sector, debt is certainly the norm, with Pan American and Goldcorp (NYSE:GG) providing noteworthy exceptions. For navigating an arduous 2008 without dipping into debt, and for emerging in a position to deliver long-awaited leverage to the price of silver, Pan American Silver deserves the close inspection of silver-seeking Fools.

Further Foolishness:

Over at CAPS, 245 All-Stars have picked four-star-rated Pan American Silver to outperform the S&P 500. Create your own portfolio at Motley Fool CAPS; it's free and fun! As a CAPS member, you'll gain full access to the blogs and the kind of in-depth discussion that makes investing fun.

Fool contributor Christopher Barker thinks financial sector executives could learn something from Pan American. He can be found blogging actively and acting Foolishly in the CAPS community under the user name TMFSinchiruna. He owns shares of Pan American Silver, Coeur d'Alene Mines, Hecla Mining, and Silver Wheaton. The Fool's disclosure policy launched its film career by portraying the Silver Surfer in the Fantastic Four sequel.