Panamanian president Varela: China to accelerate its Latin American rise
PANAMA CITY – China is taking steps to increase its presence in Panama in order to expand its influence throughout Latin America, according to Panamanian president Juan Carlos Varela.
Varela made the comments upon returning home from a historic visit to China and meetings with President Xi Jinping. The two presidents signed 19 accords ranging from trade and investment to immigration, tourism and energy. Panama also opened its first embassy in China.
“This visit will mark a before and after, without any doubt,” Varela said.
The Panamanian government expects that with a dollarized economy, an inter-oceanic canal and a financial system with more than 100 banks, Panama could become the point of entry to the region for many Chinese companies. Today, approximately 30 Chinese businesses have operations in Panama, in fields including telecommunications, maritime transport, banking and construction.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi has said several times that his country seeks a “connection” in Panama in order to strengthen China’s trade and diplomatic ties to the region.
Panama ended its diplomatic relations with Taiwan in June (as Costa Rica did in 2007), but China had already set up a commercial office in Panama by that time.
The government of Panama expects investments from China for major infrastructure projects including ports, energy plants, a fourth bridge over the Panama Canal, a train line to the Costa Rican border, and a third metro line in the capital.
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