The visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to Panama has raised a great wave of comments and analysis of each expert group in economic and diplomatic matters, dividing the positions taken to the extremes, either with endless applause for this relationship or singling out and condemning them for this fact.
After the agreement reached between China and the US at the G20 summit, Jinping arrived on Sunday at the Panamanian capital to set the foundations of the relationship that began in June 2017 and has had considerable progress in favor of both nations, according to the statements of each party.
Among the agreements reached, the future projects have great weight, like the intended high speed bullet train and which was discussed prior to the arrival of the president to the canal land. "President Xi Jinping will deliver to President Varela the feasibility study of the train between Panama and David, which has been worked on by the technical teams of both countries," announced Panamanian Vice President and Foreign Minister Isabel de Saint Malo a few weeks ago.
The high-speed train, which would require a cost of close to 5,500 million dollars, would cover a distance of 450 kilometers in just two and a half hours and would have the possibility of expanding and connecting all of Central America, according to the Panamanian president.
The Asian president proceeded to sign 19 agreements on economic, trade, development cooperation and an extradition treaty that approaches diplomatic positions for both nations for the future. This treaty "conforms to international standards and in compliance with the regulations and legislation of both countries (...) for the extradition of persons who are in either territory and are claimed by the other party required in criminal proceedings or in the execution of a sentence imposed within the offenses criminalized by the legislation of both countries," says EFE.
The agreements include the agreement signed between the Panamanian National Bank and the Chinese Development Bank, which provides the basis for cooperation in the granting of financial services to projects involving Chinese and Panamanian companies. With this, a new era of electronic commerce in the Central American country is opened and the possibilities for economic growth for each citizen are broadened.
Another of the documents extends the agreement between the Panamanian National Bank and the Bank of China Limited (BOC) on strategic cooperation, in order to promote collaboration in areas of mutual interest, as well as the co-organization of the XIII Business Summit China-LAC in 2019 in Panama.
The parties signed protocols on phytosanitary requirements for the export of pineapples, cobia, black skipjacks and meat from Panama to China, these being the main products of domestic manufacture that will soon be enjoyed by the Asian market.
In terms of infrastructure, an alliance was established between the Panamanian Electric Transmission Company S.A. (ETESA) and China Export & Insurance Corporation (SINOSURE) to establish long-term cooperation at various levels including financing.
Tourism was also reinforced thanks to the possibility of establishing multiple reciprocal entry visas for ordinary passport holders, with a duration of stay not exceeding 90 days and valid for 5 years. This is coupled with the plan reached with the migration from Cuba, which also enjoys certain commercial benefits to make its purchase in the Colon Free Zone (ZLC).
Panama and China also signed a cooperation agreement for the development of capacities in the maritime field, which seeks to achieve the joint development of the XXI Century Silk Maritime Route and the Agreement on Maritime Transport.
China will also "provide non-reimbursable cooperation to Panama for the execution of projects aligned with the Strategic Plan of the Government of Panama and the National Cooperation Plan for Panama Coopera 2030, including knowledge transfer projects and human development", as EFE points out in matters of development.
Another of the points touched upon in this meeting was the area of science, technology and innovation, as well as education, human resources development, communication and a cultural cooperation agreement framed within the objectives of the Cultural Diplomacy program of the Panamanian Chancellery, with works of theater and festivals of art recognized worldwide, coming from the Asian culture mainly.
Both countries were not oblivious to environment care, for which an agreement was also signed in the area "with the aim of promoting initiatives aimed at the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, specifically in the environmental axis".
The balance offered by Xi was quite positive, indicating that "in just one and a half years bilateral relations have had a strong takeoff", and "have led to the joint construction of La Franja and La Ruta".
Currently, the eastern nation is the most productive in the ZLC and the most important Panamanian ally, after the United States with whom China precisely relieved existing trade tensions, allowing a considerable commercial improvement in the world.
The activities of Xi Jinping have allowed other activities to begin, like this Tuesday, in which the Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela delivered the order for the design and construction of the Fourth Bridge over the Panama Canal, in an act at the International Maritime University.
This work will be carried out after the contract signed on November 9 between the Ministry of Public Works and the Panama Fourth Bridge Consortium, made up of China Communications Construction Company LTD and China Harbor Engineering Company LTD, "for an investment amount for 1,420,027,324.73 dollars ", as reported by the Panamanian infrastructure office.
"The main bridge will have a gauge of 75 meters and a width of 51 meters, and will be of the cable-stayed type to save a main light of 510 meters and side lights that add up to 251 meters on each side. It will have three lanes in each direction and two central lines for the Line 3 monorail of the Panama Metro," it added.
The Ministry added then that the bridge, designed for a life span of 100 years, will benefit more than 1.7 million inhabitants, and seeks to "alleviate the situation of the Las Americas bridge", one of the most emblematic in the country, and "absorb the future demand in this area, estimated at 70,000 vehicles daily according to the records of 2017".
This meeting allowed us to know a little of what this relationship prepares for the future, as well as to know, from Xi Jinping's own declaration, that Panama will be the bridge for the Central American expansion of China in commercial matters.
In spite of the 19 agreements signed and the progress made, each detail of the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) remain to be sorted out. The fourth round of conversations is ongoing and there is still a need to specify each of the points of autonomy and production rights in each of the agreements. Similarly, the Chinese embassy without a fixed headquarters so far, is on the agenda of these relationships that today, set a new precedent and predict very good numbers for Panama in the coming 2019.