- Presidencia de la República de Panamá
The chapters on financial services and rules of origin will be some of the main topics to be addressed during the fourth round of negotiations of the free trade agreement (FTA) between Panama and China that will begin on Monday in the Panamanian capital.
The Ministry of Commerce and Industry of Panama reported that the negotiating teams of the Investment Chapter of the two countries held this weekend a few previous meetings "to advance the view topic".
The chief negotiator of Panama, Alberto Alemán Arias, said that in this new round it is expected to "advance in the discussion of the Financial Services Chapter, originally proposed by the Panamanian team, with the objective of generating opportunities for Panama from the strength" in that sector.
During this round, which will end next Saturday, it is also expected to "deepen the Chapter on Rules of Origin", for which the negotiators will visit the Colon Free Zone (CFZ) in order to "know from a practical point of view the particularities of their operations concerning a trade agreement," said an official statement.
The CFZ, which houses around 2,260 companies and generates 25,000 direct jobs according to government data and its User Association, is the largest in the continent and has China as its main provider.
The Ministry added in its Sunday letter that the Panamanian chief negotiator considers that during the fourth round "important progress will be made in the Market Access Chapter".
Panama and China established diplomatic relations in June 2017, and exactly one year later FTA negotiations began.
The third round of negotiations took place in the second week of October in the Panamanian capital, and culminated with "significant" progress in the chapters of intellectual property, cooperation and rules of origin, said the Panamanian Ministry of Commerce and Industries.
Since establishing diplomatic ties, Panama and China have signed about thirty political, tourism, economic and infrastructure agreements.
They include the study of a bullet train, which requires an investment of close to 5,000 million dollars, which will link the capital with the western province of Chiriquí, bordering Costa Rica.
Panama and China have maintained strong economic ties for years, since the Asian giant is the second most important user of the Interoceanic Canal and the main supplier of the CFZ.
According to official figures, in 2017 Panama imported goods and services worth $ 1,344 million from China and exported products worth $ 42.6 million, including coffee, cow skins and fishmeal.