The Governments of Colombia and Panama strengthened their relations in commercial matters during a meeting led by the foreign ministers of both countries and that took place this Wednesday in Bogotá.
The meeting was attended by Colombia, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Carlos Holmes Trujillo, and the Vice Minister of Foreign Trade, Laura Valdivieso Jiménez, while in Panama were Foreign Minister Alejandro Ferrer and the Minister of Commerce and Industries, Ramón Martínez.
During the meeting, delegations addressed issues related to investment, a customs cooperation agreement and alternatives to improve access to new products.
The meeting lasted for about four hours in the central Palacio de San Carlos, headquarters of the Colombian Foreign Ministry, and ended without the heads of the Foreign Ministry giving statements to the press.
"Panama is a strategic partner of Colombia. We want to increase trade flows with that destination and that is why we work to strengthen ties in that area," Valdivieso said in a statement.
According to figures from the Colombian Government released on Wednesday, during the first half of this year, exports to Panama reached 1,367 million dollars.
Of this total, about 10% is part of the non-mining energy sector.
During 2018, Panama's investment in Colombia reached 1,176 million dollars, while in the first quarter of this year it reached 242 million dollars.
The commercial issue acquires special relevance between the two countries due to the commercial disputes they have for rates applied by the Andean country to the re-exports of footwear and textiles from the Colon Free Zone of Panama (ZLC), a conflict that they settle in the Organization World Trade (WTO).
The last pronouncement of that organization on the subject was given on October 5, when a panel of experts ruled that Colombia had complied with a previous resolution that forced it to withdraw them.
Faced with this decision, in November last year the Government of Panama reported that it filed an appeal against the ruling in the first instance when considering that tariffs represent barriers to trade.
In 2012, Colombia began to apply tariffs of 10% to footwear and textiles from the ZLC under the pretext of combating illegal trade, which generated Panama's claim.
The dispute has gone through several stages, including a ruling by the World Trade Organization (WTO) in favor of Panama that forced Colombia to suspend that tariff in 2016.
Colombia eliminated that rate but approved several measures that tighten customs controls and, according to Panamanian authorities, make trade with the free zone equally difficult, where 3,000 companies engaged in re-export operate and work around 18,000 people.
Panama has responded by raising rates to some Colombian imports, including coffee.
In addition to the bilateral tension, the tariff conflict has caused Panama to suspend ratification of a free trade agreement (FTA) with Colombia, signed in 2013.
. (tagsToTranslate) Colombia (t) Panama (t) strengthen (t) commercial (t) relationships