President Peña Nieto meets with Panamanian leader in Mexico

Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto received an official visit from his Panamanian counterpart Juan Carlos Varela at the National Palace in Mexico on 14 November 2016 and agreed to reinforce efforts to generate economic growth and combat regional challenges (Excelsior). The two leaders signed an agreement for collaboration on the exchange of information on consumer protection and another which included cooperation on issues such as migration and customs (Excelsior). President Peña Nieto highlighted Mexico was the third largest trading partner with Panama due to the FTA between the two countries and the eighth greatest user of the Panama Canal. Peña Nieto also remarked tourism exchange between the two countries has increased in recent years while President Varela assured Mexico and Panama share the same outlook on migratory issues and implored states take on responsibility to regulate the flight of the downtrodden rather than organized crime (Zocalo and La Jornada). 

Ecuador's Vice President accused of money laundering and involvement in Panama Papers

Panamanian newspaper 'La Estrella' published a column on 2 November 2016, allegeding the Panamanian Government possess a report accusing Ecuador's Vice President, Jorge Glas, of money laundering and involvement in the Panama Papers. The column goes on to add that a high ranked Ecuadoran government official traveled to Panama to prevent the release of this report (Andes, 5 November 2016). Ecuador's President, Rafael Correa, denied the accusations, labeling the publication as irresponsible, without context, or sources (Andes). Ecuador's General Attorney Galo Chiriboga announced that through the Ecuadoran Embassy in Panama, a formal complaint to this newspaper will be placed, demanding the basis and sources to this report (El Universo, 7 November 2016).

Colombian Commerce Minister to visit Panama to address tariff dispute

Colombia’s Commerce, Industrial and Tourism Minister María Claudia Lacouture will visit Panama on 22 November 2016 to negotiate with the Panamanian government over Colombia's plans to reduce tariffs on products imported from the Colón Free Trade Zone (ZLC) (La Prensa, 3 November 2016). The tariffs, which previously failed to comply with World Trade Organization (WTO) standards, were reduced as part of two separate decrees, including one to combat contraband (Publimetro). Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela announced he will address the tariff crisis with Colombia during a Cabinet meeting on 8 November (La Prensa). In 2012, Colombia applied a 10 percent tariff on footwear and textiles from the ZLC, leading to a lawsuit from Panama, in which the WTO ruled in Panama's favor (Publimetro).

Panamanian authorities try to recover reputation by tackling 240 money laundering cases

The Economy and Finance Ministry (MEF) reacted to a recent Standard & Poor’s (S&P) report which maintained the current risk rating for Panamanian banks, with the exception of three local banks (La Prensa, 1 November 2016). In a press release, MEF confirmed the steps Panama has taken in the last few years to combat money laundering and increase financial transparency, and reiterated its commitment to continuing to do so (Estrategia y Negocios). Panamanian financial regulatory authorities and the Public Ministry opened 240 investigations into money laundering activities in the last 24 months alone. Of those, financial regulators have advanced in 67 money laundering cases, while the Public Ministry is developing 173 others. Of these, 30 are in the process of being sanctioned, 38 have already received fines, and 66 have been referred to the judiciary.

CAF warns about risk of concentrating investments in Panama canal zone

The Latin America Development Bank (CAF) held a conference in Panama City on 20 October 2016 to celebrate the achievements of the Centro de Competitividad de la Región Occidental (Cecomro), a foundation dedicated to fostering public-private investments in the western provinces of Chiriqui, Bocas del Toro and Ngäble-Bugle. The CAF raised concerns over the concentration of investments around the Panama Canal at the expense of other areas (La Estrella). CAF Representative for Panama Susana Pinilla warned the concentration of investments could bring protests and anger and disrupt social peace (La Estrella). The area around the Canal, including the capital and the Caribbean city of Colón, contributes 80 percent of Panama's GDP (Telemetro). According to Cecomro President Felipe Ariel Rodríguez, the foundation hope to capture US$400 million dollars in the next five years, especially in both agricultural and logistical sectors (Telemetro).

President Varela travels to Germany seeking investment


On 16 October 2016, Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela traveled to Germany with a delegation as part of a mission to seek new investments in the maritime, transportation, and tourist sector (TVN Noticias). The agenda will include around twenty activities in the German cities of Berlin, Hamburg, and Munich and will include investment promotions; discussions with port and transportation authorities; presentations with tourist operators and transnational German companies established in Panama or are interested in establishing operations in the country. In a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, she praised the rapid response and actions taken by the government during the “Panama Papers” scandal (La Estrella). President Varela added, “our actions will put the facts beside our words in the commitment towards greater transparency in our financial system.”