I found this to be an interesting article from the Korea Herald about the relationship between Panama and the government of South Korea. Besides the fact that things are hunky-dory, a number of interesting statistics come to light.
One of the first things noticed during the recent meeting of the leaders of Panama and Korea was their compatibility that soon grew to a friendship based on mutual interests.
Both President Lee Myung-bak and Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli are from the private sector, which gives them a certain expertise in advancing the business activities of the two countries. After all, what’s good for business is good for both nations.This mutual respect has propelled the relationship of the two countries into a sphere that has never been seen before in the 48 years of formal ties between Panama and South Korea.
But that is just the tip of the iceberg because sometime this fall, the Panamanian leader will return Lee’s visit with a three-day stint in Seoul. “I think relations between both countries are waking up,” said Panama Ambassador Jaime Lasso Del Castillo to The Korea Herald.
First and foremost for both countries is trade and that famous and important lifeline known as the Panama Canal. Panama is the third destination for Korean exports to the area and the Central American country has the second largest free economic zone in the world after Hong Kong.
“This means all Korean goods come to Panama and then are exported to other parts of Latin America,” he said. The canal, which connects the Atlantic Ocean with the Pacific Ocean, is an engineering marvel that is currently going through a $6 billion facelift. Upon its completion in 2014, the Panama Canal will be able to handle supertankers and the largest of the modern container ships including United States navy supercarriers.
The biggest part of the embassy’s business in Korea is taking care of everything that has to do with the shipping industry and the canal. Sure there is trade, investment and every other gamut of diplomatic promotion, but over all, shipping takes up most of the time of the eight-member staff at the embassy.
“We mostly conduct registration for the flags of convenience,” he said. “That’s business because every merchant ship in the world has to have a convenience flag. Out of all countries using the Panama Canal, Korea ranks fifth and the Panamanian Embassy in Seoul handles about 600-700 ships navigating the world’s waters.
“We handle 20 percent of the world’s market, which adds up to about 10,000 merchant marine ships,” he said. Korean firms are also interested in Panama’s mining sector, particularly copper, where Korean companies have been focusing their new mining exploration businesses in Mexico, Peru and Panama.
The free trade agreement is also an important part of the future of both countries. “The FTA is a good instrument because you can regulate many different items,” Lasso said. He added that in the agricultural sector, there are virtually no conflicting items except for beef, but by the looks of things, Panamanian beef might not hit these shores for a long time.
Panama has been in talks with the local authorities concerning beef imports, but in the last five years the process has only moved up three steps out of an eight step certification process. Lasso would also like to see direct flights starting to operate for the sake of using Panama as a hub. “Panama is already a hub for connections from many countries, not only international flights, but also telephone and Internet,” he said.
In the coming weeks, both countries will move further in dealing with the double-taxation issue with the goal of signing a treaty during the Panamanian president’s visit.
Also discussed will be the issue of e-government. “Korea is very good at it and it’s something we want to achieve. I believe Korea can help us achieve our goals in this regard,” Lasso said.
Concerning the Central America Integration system -- an economic, cultural and political organization of Central American states -- their main goal nowadays is getting all their eggs in one basket to further the trade between themselves and the rest of the world.
By Yoav Cerralbo (email@example.com)