With the expectation of achieving the best agreement, today opens the first round. On the one hand, producers concerned about the Chinese phytosanitary regime and on the other, businessmen asking to improve local competitiveness.
The Republics of Panama and Popular China begin negotiations today for the Free Trade Agreement (FTA), in the midst of the expectations of the Government and the private company to reach an agreement that is beneficial for both parties, while some sectors frown frown and alert: 'care'.
Producers consulted expressed concern about the obstacles they will have to export, although they recognize that this agreement represents a commercial opportunity.
This first round of negotiations is held in a hotel in the capital city from July 9 to 13, in a meeting in which Panama will be represented by some 25 members of the Free Trade Agreement Negotiating Commission of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry ( MICI) and will also have the participation of more than 40 unions of the Panamanian economy, informed the MICI.
The minister of this portfolio, Augusto Arosemena, said that the first round of negotiations is to be announced, but that the results of the negotiations and the agreed issues will be reported as the talks progress.
Among the topics that will be addressed in this first session are: electronic commerce, regulatory framework, exchange of goods and services, as well as customs procedures.
HERE AND THERE
Although it does not have the precise dates of the next rounds, Arosemena said that they will be held approximately every six weeks at least during the first three, and that they will be alternated between Panama City and Beijing, the capital of China.
"The negotiation of the FTA will delay what has to be delayed," said Arosemena, indicating that the dates of the following negotiations will be announced as the agreements progress.
The president of the Panamanian Association of Business Executives (Apede), Héctor Cotes, said that they will contribute as a guild in this process, by having a representative within the commission, who will dedicate the necessary time for the agreement to be beneficial. of both countries, a 'win-win', both for China and for Panama.
Cotes urged to take advantage of the attention that monopolizes this negotiation to improve the competitiveness of the country, in a way that allows generating more opportunities, capacities and competences that translate into goods and services of export quality that can be offered, not only to China, but to any country in the world.
The negotiating team will keep open the consultations with all the sectors of goods and services of the country throughout the negotiation process to align strategies and set the objectives that will take each of the working groups, said the chief negotiator of the FTA, Alberto Alemán Arias
The head of the MICI assures that the main interest of Panama to sign a trade agreement with China is to strengthen the commercial relationship with the second largest economy in the world, to enhance the connectivity and logistics hub of Panama as a center of value-added operations and distribution of large companies. Chinese technology for America and increase Panamanian exports to the Asian market.
Likewise, it is hoped that exports to China will increase significantly, taking advantage of the magnitude of its market and its emerging middle class that nowadays has greater purchasing power.
China is interested in Panama's infrastructure sectors, ports, social housing, roads, because they believe that the Panamanian isthmus is the gateway to expand its exports in Central America, for its connectivity and its logistic and financial hub, he said. means the ambassador of the Asian giant in Panama, Wei Qiang.
According to Minister Arosemena, one of the opportunities that Panama can take advantage of this FTA is access to the Asian market, which will allow local producers to boost production and market their products in a market of more than 1,300 million inhabitants, especially of fishmeal, wood and coffee, among others.
Bilateral meetings have been held with sectors of the oils, rice, vegetables, poultry, sugar, potato, onion, coffee, flowers, corn and sorghum, meats and seafood products, mentioned Aleman Arias.
Also flour, juice and fruit concentrates, dairy products, liquors, beverages, tobacco processing, salt, sauces, condiments and seasonings, batteries, cement, iron, steel and aluminum, precious metals, paper, cardboard, plastics and similar, electronic commerce , refrigerators and freezers.
China also has in its sights the financial services (insurance, securities and banking) offered by Panama, and free zones, something that would not be news, since they have exploited for years, but now seek to repower.
The president of the National Association of Cattle Ranchers (Anagan), Aquiles Acevedo, considers the FTA with China a commercial opportunity for the country, but at the moment sees 'impossible' to market the meat products to China because Panama does not have the laboratories to export .
"If the laboratories are not built, what are we going to negotiate?", He questioned, arguing that in order to talk about exporting first, the necessary laboratories must be built.
The farmer recalled that they have not yet been able to export an ounce of meat to the United States having a treaty that was signed eleven years ago, for not having those laboratories.
Acevedo added that the same has happened with other countries, such as Costa Rica, where it has not been possible to carry any kilo of meat for the same situation.
Panama has more than twenty trade agreements and agreements in force with different countries.
'In Costa Rica they ask us for protocols similar to those of the United States. Who tells us that China will not do the same if we do not have the laboratories? "He asked.
For his part, Lorenzo Jiménez, president of the Community Association Producer of Highlands, said that the guild, which represents and agglutinates 80% of the horticultural production of the country, agrees with the FTA reaching with China focused on technology of machinery and knowledge, but that do not guarantee the exchange of products, since they consider that 'China's phytosanitary heritage is not one of the best in the world'.
Panama and China established bilateral relations in June 2017, and officially launched negotiations for the FTA in 2018, coinciding with the first anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations, at a ceremony in Beijing.
In 2017, Panama imported goods and services from China for an economic value of $ 1,344 million and exported products worth $ 42.6 million, including copper and aluminum waste, crustaceans, wood and coffee.
China is the first supplier of the Colon Free Zone and the second most important user of the Panama Canal.La Estrella de Panamá