Panamanian official, experts say China’s import expo a boon for exporters

PANAMA CITY, Nov. 3 (Xinhua) — The upcoming China International Import Expo (CIIE), scheduled for Nov. 5-10 in Shanghai, serves to make it easier for exporters to do business with the Asian giant, a top Panamanian official said.

“What’s important about this import fair is that it helps our exporters become familiar with how the procedures work,” Augusto Arosemena, minister of Panamanian Trade and Industries, said in a recent interview with Xinhua.

Panamanian officials and private sector representatives agree with Arosemena, considering China’s first ever expo of its kind an opportunity to find potential trade partners.

The country plans to showcase its export capacity at two pavilions, a Panamanian pavilion and an agricultural goods pavilion which will tout the national brand Panama Exporta.

“At the country pavilion, we will be promoting ourselves as China’s gateway to Latin America, and Latin America’s gateway to China,” said Arosemena.

The Central American country has put together a trade delegation comprising a score of private- and public-sector entities, including the Panama Tourism Authority (ATP), Colon Free Trade Zone (ZLC), and investment promotion agency Proinvex.

The minister said that the CIIE has already helped spur trade ties between Panama and China, giving impetus to free-trade talks that began after the two countries established diplomatic ties in June 2017.

With the fair coming up, Panama’s negotiating team has stepped up talks with Chinese customs and trade officials in Beijing over import procedures.

Panama is one of the several Central American countries to pursue closer ties with China by establishing diplomatic relations.

Arosemena said Panama’s sovereign decision was in keeping with the country’s goal of “opening up markets” for its goods and services.

With that in mind, members of the Panama Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture (CCIAP) will be attending the fair in a bid to boost trade, Jorge Garcia, the association’s former president, said.

He described China’s initiative to help global exporters cater to its growing consumer market as “highly interesting.”

The fair bears “great potential,” Garcia said, not just to increase sales but also to attract Chinese businesses to use “Panama” to “showcase” their products for a wider Latin American market.

“In Panama, there are many Chinese brands such as Huawei, and we hope that many other brands which we don’t know could come to Panama and reexport from here to other countries in Latin America,” Garcia added.

The 12-member CCIAP delegation will be headed by the chamber’s President Gabriel Barletta.

Panama’s country pavilion also aims to promote the Central American nation as a tourist destination, the administrator of ATP, Gustavo Him, said.

To meet the target, the ATP has hired a Chinese firm to help promote its tourism routes. “We have a cruise ship route that includes Panama and other destinations, which takes a tour of the Caribbean,” Him added.

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