Panama government officials have been busy in recent weeks cultivating business ties with Texas, which has one of the biggest economies in the United States.
“It’s a new era of trade, investment, and cooperation,” Juan B. Sosa, U.S. president of the Panama Council, said during the Panama Texas Business Summit this week in Austin.
The two-day event, one of the first international conferences to be conducted in-person since the pandemic, attracted more than 200 attendees, including representatives of government and the non-profit sector. Topics ranged from coffee and agriculture to finance and investment, as well as opportunities, to expand real estate connections.
The relationship with Texas is no small deal. Texas is the second-biggest state economy in the United States, with a GDP that would rival many small countries. Of the nearly $5.8 billion worth of U.S. merchandise exported to Panama in 2020, the Lone Star State accounted for $2 billion or 36 percent, according to the Texas Economic Development Council.
Texas is a natural trading partner for Panama. The ports of Port Arthur, Beaumont, Brownsville, Corpus Christi, Freeport, and Houston are all key points of connection for ships traveling through the Panama Canal.
Earlier this month, Panama President Laurentino Cortiz visited Austin, Houston, and Irving, Texas.
During the conference, Panama officials promoted the strong corporate base in Panama, which supplies a steady flow of buyers and renters into the real estate market. Panama hosts the regional headquarters for more than 30 multi-national companies from the United States including seven from Texas, Sosa told attendees, according to coverage in Silicon hill, a Texas business magazine. Texas companies with a big presence in Panama include Dell Technologies with 3,000 employees, Halliburton, and Caterpillar (and PPR’s property management division works with all of them.).
One of the speakers at the event was Jonathan Diaz, business director of City of Knowledge Foundation, an innovation hub for technology, research, and science. The park has 200 buildings and is home to a U.S. stem cell research lab among other ventures.
“We have a startup ecosystem that is very strong,” Diaz told the conference.
The City of Knowledge recently signed an agreement with the University of Texas at Austin to create a global innovation lab in Panama, Diaz says. The hub is hoping to attract more companies from Texas and Austin to operate there, he told the group.
The partnership between Texas and Panama is strong, Sosa said. “And the best is yet to come.”