The activity of the Colón Free Zone (ZLC), considered the largest in the Americas and located in the Panamanian Caribbean, increased by 13.7 percent during the first quarter of the year to reach 7,164 million dollars, informed official sources.
The general manager of the ZLC, Manuel Grimaldo, said at a press conference that just in the month of April there was a commercial movement of 1,922 million dollars, representing an increase of 25.5 percent compared to the same month from the previous year.
"The Colon Free Zone is gradually rising (...) The current numbers are telling us that if the free zone continues in these conditions it is very likely that we will end 2018 over the 21,000-million-dollar mark", assured the administrator.
The ZLC, where 3,000 re-export companies operate, went through a severe crisis in 2015, when its revenues fell almost 8 percent that year alone, mainly due to the economic situation in Venezuela, to the tariffs that Colombia applies to the re-exports of some products and the revaluation of the dollar.
The commercial platform closed 2017 with a movement of 19,713 million dollars, 0.3 percent more than what was registered in 2016, according to official data.
Grimaldo explained that the recovery is due to a better management of this regional center of merchandise distribution and "to the fact that our businessmen have looked for other alternative markets" that fill in the fall of Venezuela and Colombia, among other causes.
China, with whom Panama established diplomatic relations a year ago, is one of the main partners of the business empire and accounted for 24 percent of the entire commercial movement during the first quarter of the year.
Both countries will also begin to negotiate a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) from the first half of July, which generates great expectations in Panama and which, in the opinion of the official, is "a great business opportunity" for the ZLC.
"The new silk route (a commercial route that China wants to develop) begins in the ZLC, because of our geographical position we can reach any destination much faster and in a cheaper way than any other country," he admitted.
Grimaldo also recalled that there are already several Chinese companies in the logistics industry that have settled in the ZLC and that in recent months his team has had "many approaches" with large companies in the Asian country.
The ZLC is located a few kilometers from the Atlantic entrance of the Panama Canal and more than 25,000 people work there.