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The trade ministers of Panama, Augusto Arosemena, and Colombia's José Manuel Restrepo, agreed to continue seeking a solution to the tariff dispute that "continues to be a limiting factor in trade relations between both countries," the Panamanian government reported.
The ministers met this Friday in Bogotá, as agreed by Panamanian presidents Juan Carlos Varela and Colombian President Iván Duque on September 10 in an official visit of the latter to Panama.
Arosemena and Restrepo "agreed that jointly with their respective technical teams will continue holding meetings to seek a solution to the conflict that continues to be a constraint in trade relations between the two countries," reported on Friday a statement from the Panamanian Ministry of Commerce and Industry (Mici).
"We hope that with the new government of Colombia we will be able to reach a solution that will lead us to renew trade relations between both countries, closing this chapter that has prevented us from continuing to promote our trade." From the Mici we will keep defending the best interests of Panama, Arosemena said in a statement.
The tariff dispute began in 2012 and has gone through several stages, including a ruling by the World Trade Organization (WTO) in favor of Panama that forced Colombia to suspend a mixed tariff in November 2016.
This mixed rate was replaced by the Colombian government by two decrees that tighten customs controls and that make it more difficult to import footwear and textiles from the FTA, said the Panamanian authorities, who have responded by raising the rates to some Colombian imports, including coffee.
Another effect of the tariff dispute is the suspension in Panama of the ratification process of a free trade agreement (FTA) with Colombia, signed by the two governments in 2013, after four years of negotiations.
After his meeting with Duque on September 10 at the presidential palace Las Garzas, Varela said that both had given instructions to establish "in the shortest time" "an action plan so that those issues in which we have had differences can be resolved bilaterally".
The Colombian president acknowledged having had a "frank conversation" with Varela about the tariff dispute, which would enable us "in the coming months to announce good news for our two countries."
Official Panamanian information on Friday did not announce a date for a new meeting between the trade ministers.
It said that at the meeting held this Friday in addition to Arosemana and Restrepo it had the participation of the Director of Administration of Treaties and Commercial Defense of Mici, Norman Harris, and the Director of Technical Management of the Customs Authority of Panama, Yenia Díaz.
On behalf of Colombia the meeting was attended by the Vice Minister of Foreign Trade, Laura Valdivieso, and the director of the Office of Taxes and National Customs (DIAN), José Andrés Romero.