San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Panama set to join Central American Economic Integration Secretariat

PANAMA CITY – Panama will sign up for inclusion to the Secretariat of Central American Economic Integration (SIECA) on Friday, allowing that country to export a large quantity of goods duty-free to Europe, said Panamanian Trade Minister Ricardo Quijano.

Central American trade ministers have approved the needed requirements to grant Panama entry to SIECA during a regional summit in Honduras on June 29, but it will become an official member on Jan. 1 next year, the minister said.

Regional nations are integrated politically in the Central American Integration System (SICA), which already includes Panama, and economically in SIECA, an agency in which the country participated only as an observer.

The addition of Panama to SIECA allows the signing of a Central American Association Agreement with the European Union (EU) that had been pending since 2010.

The EU agreement required the integration of Panama, a country with an economic growth of 10 percent, a canal through which passes 5 percent of world trade, a robust banking system and a major free zone located in the Atlantic city of Colón.

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