PANAMA CITY – Panama’s President Juan Carlos Varela welcomed on Wednesday a senior member of the Politburo of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and discussed the progress of relations between the two countries as well as the possibility of establishing a direct flight between Panama and Shanghai.
According to the Presidency of Panama’s official statement, the meeting between Varela and Li Qiang, who is also CPC Secretary of Shanghai, “gave a new impetus” towards the Panama-China relations, established a little over a year ago after the Central American country severed ties with Taiwan.
The possibility of introducing a direct flight between Panama and Shanghai was one of the issues addressed in the meeting, as it would serve to connect Tocumen International Airport with one of the five most important airports in Asia and will help increase the number of tourists visiting both destinations.
The first direct flight between Beijing and Panama City was inaugurated on April 5, operated by the state airline Air China, on Thursdays and Sundays with a technical layover in the Texan city of Houston in the United States.
Thanks to the inauguration of the first direct flight between the two countries and the endorsement of agreements on tourism, Panama will receive about 150,000 tourists from China in 2019, compared to the 22,000 registered in 2017.
Li and Varela also addressed issues related to strengthening bilateral cooperation in logistics, ports, tourism, politics and education, according to official sources.
The two countries held their first round of negotiations on a free trade agreement last week in Panama City.
China is the biggest supplier of the Colon Free Trade Zone, the largest free port in the Americas, located in the Caribbean coast of Panama, and the second largest user of the Panama Canal, a waterway which accounts for about 6 percent of world trade.