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Colombia stalls signing the FTA with Panama

The Bulletin Panama

Colombia stalls signing the FTA with Panama

22 July 2013

The Panamanian Minister of Commerce and Industry, Ricardo Quijano said that Panama has a special interest in signing free trade agreements with Colombia and Mexico to enter the Pacific Alliance not as observers, but as a full member.

However, there have been delays with the agreement with Colombia, because they are currently analyzing the legal content to amend the text of the treaty.

“We are a little worried because we wanted to have it finalized and signed between July and August. Colombia is taking longer than expected, but we are still waiting for their reaction,” said Quijano.

Meanwhile, the problems with Colombian export taxes on textiles and footwear products continues to affect negatively the Colon Free Zone’s traders who have suffered multi-million dollar losses over the past few months.

Some companies that operate there are even thinking of laying off some of their employees to keep their businesses afloat.

The Colon Free Zone’s users are also being hit hard by the lack of payment from their Venezuelan customers who owe them between $700 million and $800 million.

After a recent visit by Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli to his Venezuelan counterpart, Nicolas Maduro, it was agreed facilities will be made available to the businesses so they can obtain enough dollars to pay their debt. Quijano said that it is expected that the matter will go smoothly and the first payment will be received shortly.

With regards to the Free Trade Agreement with Mexico, Minister Quijano said that the negotiations are starting from zero. “We already sent the formats and the Mexican authorities are studying them. The first round of negotiations will start at the end of the month and, depending of what happens, we will advance to the next round,” concluded Quijano.

Panama has great interest in forming part of the Pacific Alliance to assure its position as the logistic hub of the region by serving as a platform to transport products from Mexico, Colombia, Peru and Chile to the European and Asian markets.