Panama Pres. Juan Carlos Varela’s historic visit to China this week will focus on increasing investment in Panama and attracting more passenger flights from China, as part of a wide-ranging pro-business initiative.
Pres. Varela is expected to sign more than dozen agreements in his meeting on Nov. 17 with Chinese President Xi Jinping. The deals will cover a wide range of business, tourism and diplomatic issues, including the opening of Panama’s embassy in June, according to media reports.
Direct flights from China are part of that agenda, the secretary of presidential goals Jorge González told reporters. The goal is “that more Chinese tourists arrive to Panama and vice versa,” he said.
It’s been amazing to see how quickly Panama and China have moved to solidify the business relationship since July when Panama formerly denounced ties to Taiwan to renew diplomatic relations with China. There is talk of big projects, massive infrastructure deals and increased—all big pluses for the Panama property market.
For his first state visit to China, Pres. Varela is taking an impressive entourage of top Panama, including Isabel de Saint Malo de Alvarado, chancellor and Vice President, and Dulcidio De La Guardia, minister of economy and finance.
The discussions will focus on a wide variety of initiatives, including large infrastructure projects. China companies are already involved in building a wide variety of projects in Panama, including the new cruise port on Amador Causeway.
There has also been a discussion of a new train route between Panama City and David, which appears close to fruition.
“An important agreement will be signed that opens the possibility of Chinese cooperation in railway matters, to allow a future train in the city that goes from the city to Chiriqui,” Vice President Isabel Saint Malo told La Estrella.
After leaving Beijing, Pres. Varela will travel to Shanghai to inaugurate the first Panama consulate. Shanghai will also be the headquarters of “Panama Fest,” an event to promote Panama tourism to China.
The possibility of direct flights or better air connections will be a big deal for the property market, making it easier for Chinese to live and invest in Panama City. It will also be a sign that China and Panama are serious about creating long-term economic ties.
Direct flights could happen as soon as next year, Carlos Duboy, general manager of Tocumen, SA told El Capital Financiero.
“We have sat down with several airlines, China Airlines, Air Beijing,” Duboy said. “We are identifying with Civil Aeronautics the routes, the airspace and the agreements that have to be had” in order to make this plan concrete, he said.
Duboy said discussions are also taking place for more flights from Middle East airlines. “We’ve talked to the Middle East, with Emirates and Qatar,” with possibilities for London and Barcelona connections, he said.
Duncan McGowan is president of Punta Pacifica Realty, a Panama real estate agency focused on Punta Pacifica, the exclusive neighborhood of 18 towers perched on the edge of the Pacific Ocean.