The Panamanian Government said today that the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), considered the China and the world’s largest bank by market capitalization, will "soon" open branches in Panama.
The Secretary of State Communication explained in a statement that the "next" establishment of the banking institution in Panama is a "demonstration of China's confidence in the soundness of the Panamanian financial system."
The bank, which is listed in Shanghai and Hong Kong, has more than 17,000 branches in China and more than 2,000 correspondent banks around the world.
At the end of 2015, ICBC's total assets amounted to 3.4 trillion dollars and generated profits of 42.6 billion dollars, according to the information offered by the company on its website.
Along with ICBC, the Exim Bank and China Development Bank's banks are also planning to open branches in Panama, the Panamanian statement added, which did not specify the opening dates.
The Secretariat of Communication also said that Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela met on Thursday at the presidential palace with Zhou Xiaochuan, governor of the People's Bank of China (central), the institution responsible for controlling monetary policy and regulating financial institutions of the Asian country.
During the meeting, Varela and Zhou spoke about the upcoming opening of these branches in Panama and "agreed to work hand in hand to strengthen investment strategies, mutual collaboration and State policies in the financial field," the official statement said.
Panama decided in June 2017 to break diplomatic relations with Taiwan and recognize the "one China" principle, thus becoming the second Central American country, after Costa Rica, to establish diplomatic relations with China.
Panama and China already had an important trade exchange before establishing diplomatic relations, but a remarkable growth is expected when both countries agree to a Free Trade Agreement (FTA), which will be predictably negotiated by both countries during the second half of this year.
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 customer of the Panama Canal, through which about 6 percent of trade world passes, after the USA.
The banking center of Panama has almost a hundred national and foreign institutions and represents about 10 percent of the country's gross domestic product (GDP).