Panama, November 22, 2015. (From EFE)
Panama and Israel have concluded negotiations towards the signing of a free trade agreement (FTA), stated Melitón Arrocha, Panama’s Minister of Commerce and Industry.
The statesman specified that the last round of negotiations reached its conclusion in the Panamanian capital, and a FTA was achieved “with wide-ranging coverage in goods, services, and investment,” which seeks to augment the low balance of commerce between the two nations ($17,000,000 as of today).
“It is our first agreement with a partner in the Middle East, and as such we are sure that this FTA will yield important business opportunities for exporters and Panamanian entrepreneurs,” said Arrocha.
As far as goods are concerned, Israel recognizes immediate preferential treatment for many traditionally Panamanian agricultural and agroindustrial products, such as vinegar, coffee, both crude and refined palm oil, frozen pork, hamburger meat, rum, yucca, flour, and fish flour. This will “widen the markets for our exports, while acknowledging preferential treatment within Israel’s markets,” claimed Arrocha.
Likewise, he acknowledged, tariff rebates were achieved for products such as fresh and frozen pork products, tripe, ñame root, watermelons, and some juices, though he did not give detailed percentages.
Under yearly cuotas, Panama will be able to trade 300 metric tons of pork products (either fresh or refrigerated), 1,000 T of pineapple, 500 T of papaya, and 500 T of tropical fruits (nance fruit, tamarind, bread fruit, pixbae nut, and soursop).
With preferential access, Panama will be able to immediately export its seafood. Yellow fin tuna, wide eyed tuna, other fish filets, and shrimp are subject to a 15-25% tariff reduction.
Products that were excluded from preferential access include dairy products, rice, oils, wheat flour, poultry, pork meat, charcuterie, sugar, and coffee, among others.
30.5% of Panama’s industrial product was not granted tariff reductions, “without taking into account those products that were already granted immediate access to Israeli markets, and which represent almost 60% of Israel’s imports,” clarified Arrocha.
Aiming for a complete investment tool in order to further benefit from commercial relations, Services and Investments were included as an integral part of the FTA negotiations. Panama seeks to attract international investment, and to define non-discriminatory treatment towards services, strengthening Panama’s supply of telecommunications and financial services.
Likewise, in order to strengthen its logistical hub, Panama was able to include Israeli recognition of the Colon Free Trade Zone Reexport Certificate, as a document that allows for commercialization and use of its logistical services, while allowing products to maintain their country of origin and their preferential tariff treatment.
Arrocha also said that a chapter on Commercial and Economic Cooperation was included, “aimed at incrementing primarily the capacity and competitiveness of cooperative, small, and medium-sized companies working in the fields of innovation and technological transfers.”
Presently, trade between the two countries amounts to only $17 million dollars, with the balance of trade favoring Israel at a 2:1 ratio. EFE