PANAMA CITY – Panama’s trade and industry minister said Friday that his country is ready to devote as much time as necessary to the process of reaching a free trade agreement with China.
“My position has always been that negotiations will take as long as they need to take for Panama to obtain the most beneficial agreement for the country,” Augusto Arosemena told reporters. “If it can be done in two rounds, it will be done in two rounds. If it takes 10, that’s fine too.”
The minister said that teams from both countries completed on Thursday a “feasibility study” of the proposed pact, concluding that such an agreement would benefit both parties.
Panama and China are committed to pursuing a “win-win relationship,” Arosemena said, adding that any treaty would preserve his country’s existing protections for domestic industry and reserved occupations.
The negotiations leading to Panama’s trade accords with the United States and Canada required roughly one year and two years, respectively.
Panama broke official ties with Taiwan in June 2017, accepting Beijing’s “one China” principle, thus becoming the second Central American country – after Costa Rica – to establish diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China.
China and Panama already had an important trade relationship prior to establishing ties, but significant growth is expected should they sign a trade pact.
Arosemena also said that Air China is expected to begin direct flights from Panama City to Beijing by the end of this month.
In 2016, according to official figures, Panama sold China $50.9 million in copper scraps, crustaceans, wood and coffee, while purchasing $1.18 billion in goods and services from the Asian nation.
China is the second-largest user of the Panama Canal, behind the US.