Colombian President Iván Duque said today that Panama and Colombia should prioritize the increase of bilateral trade and bring the trade balance above 3,000 million dollars.
"I want us to set goals so that the trade balance continues to grow, so that we can quickly cross the threshold of 3,000 million dollars, and start to reach 4,000 and 5,000," said Duque before businessmen of the two countries that met privately Monday in Panama.
The Colombian leader stressed that his country has been receiving "very important flows from Panama of between 600 and 700 million dollars", while the Central American country "has also been receiving investment flows from Colombia that exceed 1,200, 1,300 million of dollars".
This, according to Duque, "says a lot of what our nations have been forging" in their commercial relationship, and stressed that now "there are more than 200 Colombian companies investing in Panama.
Duque added that we must also seek to increase Panama's foreign investment in Colombia and vice versa, which, he said, "must be achieved with full transparency and agility" as well as in the issues of tourism flows between the two countries.
Duque and Varela spoke of their support for the work to review the development plan for the electric interconnection project between Colombia and Panama, which will link the Andean and Central American electricity integration systems.
Panama and Colombia agreed to work in the promotion of tourism with the multi-destination format, to attract tourists from Asia and Europe.
The possibility of establishing a cruise route through the Pacific between the Port of Buenaventura, in Colombia, and the future cruise port in Amador was evaluated, as well as the Caribbean route between Colón and Cartagena that will continue to be strengthened.
Here Duque highlighted the great opportunity that the Colombian port of Buenaventura can have to enter this circuit of development of this Pacific route with the Caribbean, which would generate "depressed" income in goods, services, tourism, crafts, gastronomy "
He added that during this official visit to Panama for a day, they also talked about sensitive trade issues that have created difficulties, and issues that have to do with the subject of tax information.
"Both issues were addressed in the most constructive way possible and it was agreed to draw up an action plan between the two countries in the coming months, in which we will explain how we can expand this offer between the customs and trade, and resolve those bottlenecks giving the two countries the opportunity to continue generating more investment," said Duque.
Varela and Duque signed a memorandum of understanding that seeks to increase cooperation in the fight against human trafficking and assistance to victims of this crime; boost tourism and a project of electrical interconnection between the two countries.
They also addressed the customs dispute that both countries have maintained since 2012, and agreed to draw a new road map to solve it.
This is the umpteenth attempt to solve a commercial dispute that began in 2012 when Colombia imposed a fee on footwear and textiles from the Colón Free Zone (ZLC), located in the Panamanian Caribbean and considered the largest in the hemisphere.
The bilateral relations have also been muddied in recent years by the tax issue, because Colombia seeks Panama to provide information of this nature on its citizens without the need for a judicial request.