In the News from Panama

Panama Strikes More Big Deals with China

More details are emerging about the wide variety of new deals between China and Panama, which will impact every sector of the economy. More than simply photo opportunities and politics, the blooming relationship between the two countries is clearly bringing real results.

We’ve already reported on plans to add direct flights from China and an agreement to study the feasibility of developing a train route between Panama City and Chiriqui. But the new connections being forged clearly go far beyond simple diplomatic relations.

One of the big news items for the real estate industry is confirmation that China has formally declared Panama an “approved tourist destination,” which should open the door for a new generation of China travelers. China is the largest and fastest growing segment of the world tourism industry, and “approved” status will put Panama on the map.

In essence, Panama will become the gateway to the region for China travelers, Tourism Minister Gustavo Him told La Estrella. Group trips of Chinese tourists to Panama will be arranged through authorized travel agencies, which are assembling new travel packages, Him said.

Panama has many of the attributes that should attract Chinese tourists, including culture, shopping, and one-of-a-kind nature attractions.

“We have the tourist resource, the proximity to places of interest and the hotel infrastructure to meet and meet the demand of this class of tourists,” Him said.

Those ties will be aided by another new agreement signed during Pres. Varela’s recent historic trip to China, which seeks to encourage collaborations between museums, art, and cultural groups. “In addition, both countries will promote the development of the international study of sinology (study of the languages and cultures of China) through the professional, academic and informational exchange,” Telemetro reports.

The Panama government has developed a “China team” to specifically develop programs, Foreign Minister Isabel de Saint Malo told Daily La Prensa.

“We have created commissions and teams in all topics to advance as quickly as possible,” Saint Malo told the paper. China has already agreed to give ships flying a Panama flag “preferential berth in Chinese ports,” she said.

In addition, Panama has signed agreements with entities such as Bank of China and the Export-Import Bank of China, “which plan to open up offices in Panama and build finance infrastructure projects in the country,” Xinhua, the Chinese site, reports.

There is clearly momentum to make sweeping improvements in trade between the two countries. China and Panama have also agreed to develop new free trade and economic zones, according to published reports. Although there are few details, at this point, it is clear the two countries are aggressively looking for new ways to build the economic relationship, which should provide a huge boost to the already-surging Panama economy.

DuncanDuncan 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.