- Presidencia República de Panamá
Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela today appointed Alberto Alemán Arias as Panama's chief negotiator for talks about the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with China, a country with which he established relations in June last year, according to an official source.
Alemán will coordinate the actions and strategies that the country will present in these trade negotiations, at the governmental level, with all public entities and the private sector, and will direct the negotiating team appointed to carry out this process, said the State Communication Secretary.
Alberto Alemán held the position of director of the Agency for the Promotion of Investments and Exports (Proinvex) of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry of Panama (Mici).
Alemán headed on behalf of the National Government the creation, development and implementation of the Global Center of Excellence (CGdE) of supply chains, the first of its kind in the Americas.
Previously, he was Manager of Business Development at London & Regional Panamá, S.A .; master developer of the Panama Pacífico Special Economic Area; and Chief of Staff and Political Advisor on Economic and Financial Affairs at the Permanent Mission of Panama to the United Nations in New York, United States
The appointment of Alemán complements the team made up of professionals with broad experience in Mici business negotiations, who represented Panama in the preparation of the feasibility study prior to the negotiations and which are currently in the preparatory phase for the launch of the process, highlighted the National Government.
The head of Mici, Augusto Arosemena, said that Panama's "primary" interest in signing an FTA with China is to boost foreign investment, mainly of added value "to become a distribution center for Chinese industries in the region and enhance Panamanian exports to the Asian market," according to official information.
Last March, Arosemena said that his country is in no hurry to sign an FTA with China and that the negotiations of this agreement, which will begin in June, "will delay the time they require".
"My position has always been that the negotiations will delay the time they require in order for Panama to get the most beneficial treaty for the country. If it can be done in two rounds, it is done in two rounds. If it takes ten, it can be done so too," said Arosemena.
Last June, Panama decided 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 trade exchanges before establishing diplomatic relations, but a remarkable growth is expected when both countries agree on an FTA.
In 2016, Panama sold China 50.9 million dollars worth of copper, crustacean, wood and coffee waste, among others, while the Asian giant sold goods and services to the Central American country for 1,183 million dollars, according to official figures.
China is also the second most important user of the Panama Canal and the first supplier of the Colon Free Zone, the largest free zone in the hemisphere, located in the Panamanian Caribbean.