Panama uses CIIE to showcase huge potential as export hub
Updated 14:02, 13-Nov-2018
Nicholas Moore
“The Chinese market deserves the best, so that's why we're here.” 
Panama established diplomatic ties with the People's Republic of China in June last year, but entrepreneurs and trade representatives from the country told CGTN on Thursday they were already full of confidence about future relations.
Speaking to CGTN at the China International Import Expo, Rosmer Jurado, president of the Panamanian Association of Exporters, said “we want to increase our commercial relationship with this giant country,” adding the CIIE was “amazing, I've never seen something this big.”
23 companies from Panama are attending the CIIE, showcasing products from the country such as coffee, pineapples, seafood and rum, with Jurado saying “when it comes to agricultural products, Panama has a lot of potential.”
Jurado told CGTN that Panama has “a very well-developed logistics center,” describing how a country of only 4.2 million people handles as many as seven million shipping containers per year.
Panama's geographic location and its famous canal make it one of the most important regions in the world for global trade, particularly after the Panama Canal was expanded in 2016 to allow larger container ships to pass through.
Jurado added that beyond cargo freight, Panama was also host to the region's fourth most important international airport, adding investment plans aimed to make it Latin America's second-most used airport.
Panamanian authorities are looking at the model of The Netherlands, according to Jurado, who explained that the Dutch were the world's fifth largest exporter, despite having a relatively low population.
The expansion of the Panama Canal was completed in June 2016, doubling the canal's capacity and allowing for wider ships to pass through. /VCG Photo

The expansion of the Panama Canal was completed in June 2016, doubling the canal's capacity and allowing for wider ships to pass through. /VCG Photo

Further development of Panama as a trading hub would see raw materials from Latin America processed in the country before being exported around the world, with Jurado telling CGTN that Asia would be the most important destination for those goods.
With Panama the fastest-growing economy in Latin America in 2017, and projected to expand its GDP by 5.5 percent this year, Jurado said that the government had looked to diversify the economy by leveraging its existing logistical advantages and looking to expand new sectors, such as agriculture and tourism.
When asked what had changed since Panama and the People's Republic of China established diplomatic ties in June 2017, Jurado said that the two countries had of course grown closer, with the relationship offering “a whole new opportunity for doing business with China.”
Jurado explained that while Panama and China had long been trading partners, “we couldn't do any negotiations on a free trade agreement without diplomatic relations.”
Jurado told CGTN that negotiations with China on a free trade agreement are ongoing, with a third round of talks set to be held in Panama before the end of November.
With rapid progress made in the 17 months since China and Panama formed diplomatic ties, Panama's President Juan Carlos Varela said Thursday that he hoped to see more than 100 Panamanian companies at the next CIIE.
For many of those companies, China is a brand new market that they are just starting to understand. Eric Dormoi, head of International Business Development and Export Consulting, told CGTN that he was training exporters to learn about doing business with China, as well as embracing WeChat, QR codes and other technology.
“We need to learn together,” said Dormoi, adding that people from Panama “have to come and visit, we have to experience, we have to try new things in China.”
Francisco Serracin, owner of Don Pachi Estate, the producer of Geisha beans – the most expensive coffee in the world – told CGTN that the CIIE was “one of the best exhibition shows I have seen in my life.”
Don Pachi Geisha Natural coffee can sell for more than 800 US dollars per pound, or more than 70 US dollars for one cup.
Will Serracin be back for the second CIIE in 2019? “Of course, no doubt!”