Panama and China opened today in the Panamanian capital the first round of negotiations of a free trade agreement (FTA) that they claim is "modern" and positions the Central American country as a gateway to Chinese products and investments in the region.
"The negotiators will cover specific issues, and both sides will negotiate a modern and comprehensive free trade agreement," Chinese ambassador to Panama Wei Qiang told reporters.
The diplomat said that China defends trade negotiations in which the key word is "win-win and reciprocal benefit", focusing on the one that contributes to the consolidation of bilateral and international relations.
The Panamanian Minister of Commerce and Industry, Augusto Arosemena, said that Panama has among its goals to position itself as a gateway for China's products and investments for the entire region through the FTA.
"An FTA is not everything, but if we do not make the changes to facilitate exports, we will not be able to take advantage of it, so we must have the vision and challenge to break these barriers and knots, and that our authorities facilitate bringing the products not only to China, but to other markets," said the minister.
This first round of negotiation will be extended until Friday to standardize, agree terminology, definitions and concepts of the FTA.
There are nine working groups to address issues related to legal framework, rules of cooperation, legislation on sanitary and phytosanitary measures, intellectual property regulations, analysis of barriers to trade and safeguard measures.
Arosemena stressed that the Panamanian negotiating mission included representatives of the private sector in order to generate effective interaction with both parties.
"All the countries that enter into negotiations with large trading partners may have to make important changes, that is why (in the case of these negotiations) they analyze with the private sector and more than 50 unions, what we can improve and change for exports to take place," Arosemena said.
The next round of negotiations is scheduled for August of this year in Beijing, which will determine the next dates of the approach of the FTA.
The governments of both countries officially launched negotiations for the FTA on June 12 at a ceremony in Beijing, coinciding with the first anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations.
Last year, Panama imported goods and services from China worth 1,344 million dollars and exported products worth 42.6 million dollars, including copper and aluminum waste, crustaceans, wood and coffee.
The Asian country is the first supplier of the Colon Free Zone, the largest free zone in the hemisphere, located in the Panamanian Caribbean, and the second most important user of the Panama Canal, through which about 6 percent of world trade passes, after the USA.
Source: ACAN/ EFE