Establishing official ties with China brings ‘lots of opportunities’: Panamanian politicians

A number of Panamanian politicians say that China-Panama relations will yield positive outcomes in the future, after the two countries established diplomatic ties on June 13.

Oyden Ortega Duran, chairman of the Panama-China Friendship Association, spoke highly of the diplomatic move. China is not only the second most frequent user of the Panama Canal, but is also the largest commodity supplier to the free trade zone in Colon, the chairman pointed out, adding that the establishment of ties will elevate bilateral relations in commerce and trade, investment, cultural exchange and other sectors.

Panama City Mayor Jose Blandon, who maintains extensive contact with the city’s Chinese community, believes people of both nations have been waiting for this moment for a very long time. Statistics show that there are over 150,000 Chinese people in Panama, a country with a total population of over 4 million.

Ortega believes developing Panama’s tourism industry should be a priority. More Chinese tourists will want to travel to Panama, which will benefit the commercial sector, he explained. Blandon hopes more Chinese enterprises will come to Panama in the future as well. He believes Panama can create a stable, favorable investment environment for Chinese investors and enterprises. The integration of Chinese and Panamanian cultures will make it easier for Chinese investors to launch businesses here, or make Panama the headquarters for Chinese enterprises in Latin America, the mayor added.

Blandon has previously traveled to Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen and Dalian, and noted that those cities left deep impressions on him. Addressing the Belt and Road Initiative and the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, Ortega said: “Countries across the world are all looking forward to seizing the precious opportunity brought by the ‘Belt and Road’ for development.”

After establishing diplomatic ties with the Chinese mainland, Panama on the same day announced that it would sever ties with Taiwan. Recent media reports noted that, affected by the dissolution of diplomatic relations, some Panamanian students who received scholarships from Taiwan may not know how to proceed.

In response to these concerns, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang said at a regular news briefing on June 15 that “We are aware some Panamanian students who have received scholarships from Taiwan may experience difficulties. We welcome them to study in the Chinese mainland and are willing to offer timely and necessary assistance.”

In the future, China will provide annual scholarships to students from Panama, Lu said. The spokesperson noted that “China will enhance educational and cultural exchange with Panama.”

(The article is also published on People’s Daily Online)

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