Authorities and businessmen from Panama and Spain participated yesterday in a bilateral business meeting under the slogan: "Strategic partners", organized by CEOE; the Secretary of State for Commerce, through ICEX, and the Spanish Chamber of Commerce, in collaboration with the Agency for the Attraction of Investments and Export Promotion "ProPanamá". During the meeting, to which more than 100 entrepreneurs from both countries were connected, the current business climate after COVID-19 and the different opportunities for trade and investment were analyzed, as well as the intensification of bilateral trade relations through dialogue with Spanish companies with a presence in the country and with Panamanian companies with a presence in Spain.

After some welcoming words from the CEOE International CEO and permanent secretary of the Council of Ibero-American Entrepreneurs (CEIB), Narciso Casado, the day was inaugurated by the CEOE vice president and CEYPME president, Gerardo Cuerva; the general director of the Spanish Chamber of Commerce, Inmaculada Riera; the president of the Panamanian business organization CONEP, Julio de la Lastra; and the ambassadors of Spain in Panama, Francisco Javier Pagalday, and of Panama in our country, Manuel Oreste Nieto. The director of Financing and Investor Relations of ICEX, Sergio Vela and the director of ProPanamá, Carmen Gisela Vergara, spoke to discuss the business climate and bilateral trade and investment opportunities. In addition, two company success stories were presented, that of INDRA, presented by the global director of Institutional Relations, Íñigo de Palacio; and the one of Camarones de Coclé of Grupo Calesa, of which the General Manager, Roberto Chamorro, spoke. The day was closed by the Vice Chancellor of the Republic of Panama, Federico Álvaro Boyd and the Secretary of State for Commerce, Xiana Méndez.

Narciso Casado, CEO of International CEOE International and permanent secretary of CEIB, introduced the conference with the idea that Panama is much more than a channel, since it is the most dynamic Latin American economy and, despite its size, has It has experienced very intense growth over the last decade, with an average growth rate of 7%, the highest in all of Latin America. In this sense, he assured that the Central American country has known how to take advantage of its privileged geographical position, connecting the world at maritime, airport and digital level, with the laying of 7 fiber optic cables in which Spanish companies have invested, which shows the degree of trust and commitment of our countries. He also expressed, on behalf of the Spanish Confederation of Business Organizations, the need to continue strengthening bilateral economic relations, in collaboration with the National Council of Private Enterprise (CONEP), an organization with which he maintains a strong relationship within the OIE and CEIB.


Panama, a hub commercial and logistics

The Vice President of CEOE and President of CEPYME, Gerardo Cuerva, highlighted the alliance that has been created within the framework of the Tripartite (Secretary of State for Commerce, through ICEX Spain Export and Investment; CEOE and the Chamber of Commerce of Spain) and the excellent results it has given in the work carried out abroad and in support of the internationalization of Spanish companies. In fact, there are 122 of our companies established in the Central American country, not only to invest, but to stay, becoming part of the Panamanian ecosystem in strategic sectors for its economy such as infrastructure, energy or the agri-food sector. And it is that Panama, he stressed, is situated for Spanish companies as the "hub commercial and logistical ”par excellence in Latin America and as one of the most open and dynamic countries in the Region, especially in relation to the climate and ease of doing business.

Cuerva spoke of highly consolidated bilateral trade exchanges, to which the institutional framework resulting from the excellent relations between the European Union and Spain with Central America and Panama has contributed in a very positive way, reflected in the signing of numerous current conventions and agreements, the last one, the Collaboration Protocol between the CEOE and the investment agency ProPanamá, signed on November 25, 2019. “An agreement that represents a perfect example of public-private collaboration between institutions on both sides of the Atlantic, and that its purpose is to work on the development of long-term strategies and policies that defend and promote the interests of our companies in our countries, ”he reported.

Vocation of permanence of Spanish companies

In her speech, the director general of the Spanish Chamber, Inmaculada Riera, recalled the "multiple and close ties" that unite the two countries, with historical, political and economic ties. "Panama is a strategic partner of our country. We are among the top ten suppliers and the Spanish presence is evident in a number of sectors: construction, engineering, commercial aviation, telecommunications, etc., ”he explained, adding that“ Spanish companies have shown clear interest for years , a commitment to the progress and modernization of Panama and a clear vocation for permanence ”. Riera also highlighted the power of the Central American country's economy, which adds several years of growth in a scenario of stability.

Riera also made reference to the growing presence of our small and medium-sized companies in Panama, and that they have a very important role in providing greater competitiveness and great technological value. Likewise, the director of the Chamber of Commerce attached special importance to digitization and making a firm commitment to sustainability, as fundamental factors to get out of the crisis and look optimistically towards the future.

The president of the Panamanian business organization CONEP, Julio de la Lastra, highlighted the importance of holding this type of bilateral meetings, in order to "strengthen the bonds of friendship that unite us, as well as our economic, commercial, social and cultural relations " Only through associativity and mutual cooperation, he insisted, will it be possible to get ahead in the current context and face the crisis in the best possible way. He also explained that as a result of the pandemic and the subsequent confinement, important changes have been achieved, especially on the environmental issue, since now "the world has cleaner oceans and clearer skies," he said.

The Ambassador of Panama in Spain, Manuel Orestes Nieto, appreciated very much the fact that we were able to meet, even if it was virtual, in these circumstances and highlighted the motto of the meeting "Strategic Partners", since it implies an attitude and a common will to strengthen bilateral economic and business relations, which are already very prosperous, and have allowed to build solid and open bridges between both countries. He also emphasized the launch of the ProPanamá office, directed by Carmen Gisela Vergara, and aimed at finding partners and promoting the presence of foreign companies and industries in the Central American country. I also emphasize that "Panama is a young republic in the center of the American continent, with a vocation to unite lands and destinations worldwide, and not just be a mere transit of goods."

For his part, the Spanish ambassador to Panama, Francisco Javier Pagalday, bet on the strategic importance of our relationships, which must continue to be based on great business cooperation. He also mentioned the great work done by the Commercial Office in Panama, which favors fluid communication and mutual cooperation between the two countries. In this sense, he assured that it is essential to "learn from the valuable lessons that the crisis has left us" and hopes that the Central American country can come out of the current situation relatively soon, backed by all the projects it has underway.

Bilateral trade and investment opportunities

The director of Financing and Investor Relations of ICEX-Invest in Spain, Sergio Vela, spoke of the advantages of Spain as an investment destination and stressed that it is an open, resilient and balanced economy, it is in the eleventh place in export of services and in the sixteenth in export of goods; It is the second most tourist destination worldwide and the first in Europe; and it has leading companies in numerous sectors. Vela highlighted the great work that was done in Spain a decade ago to adjust the fiscal deficit, the private effort to reduce its debt and increase its productivity, which is reflected, years later, in greater competitiveness. This “Spanish miracle”, he reported, translates into a huge opening and in that it has doubled the number of exporting companies in ten years.

The representative of ICEX highlighted that Spain is the second investor in Latin America, with a presence in sectors such as infrastructure, automotive, energy and logistics. Furthermore, our country is one of the most open to foreign direct investment, thanks to the size of its market, human capital, low labor costs, good infrastructure and a high quality of life. Vela added that Spain is the first recipient of Erasmus students and represents a market not only of 47 million inhabitants, but also open to the European Union, and represents an excellent platform for Latin America, Africa and the Middle East.

The former Minister of Commerce and Industries of Panama and director of ProPanama, Carmen Gisela Vergara, stressed that Panama is a world-class logistics platform, it has the most important ports in the region; it is a highly relevant air hub; as well as an international banking and financial center, with a total asset of 125,221 million dollars in March 2020. In this sense, he stressed that the Central American country is one of the most connected in the world, thanks to the connection of 7 continental cables of fiber optic and one under construction, which offer 100% regional internet traffic, 97% international voice traffic, 90% data transmission. Panama also has the largest wind farm in Central America, he said.

On the other hand, Vergara also reported that there are 54 laws or regimes that offer investment incentives in the country, such as Panama SEM, City of Knowledge, Colon Free Zone, Panama Free Zones or Dicine, among others. In addition, the Government recently approved the Public-Private Partnership Law that includes social and economic investment projects in the highway, energy, telecommunications, schools, public buildings or water treatment sectors. The director of the Pro-Panama Agency encouraged Spanish entrepreneurs to invest in agriculture (blockchain for traceability or agricultural intelligence), pharmaceutical sector, disruptive technologies, creative industries, renewable energy, the environment or tourism.

Business success stories

The general manager of Camaronera de Coclé S.A., Roberto Clamorro, reported that the company is 100% Panamanian, and is part of the CALESA Agroindustrial Group. It is dedicated to the commercialization and distribution of farmed white shrimp of the Pacific species of the Penaeus Vannamei, of superior quality, which earned it in 2018 the award of exporter of the year, awarded by the MICI of Panama. In addition, he noted that the company serves clients in Europe, Asia, Africa and both coasts of the United States, and its market shareEurope is 60% of the annual total.

Chamorro highlighted the importance of working with business partners in the development of brands and with high values ​​of loyalty and perseverance. At least, he stressed, "that has been our experience with importing distributors entrepreneurs from Spain." In fact, he explained that there are companies that have become true allies in Granada and Cantabria and with which they have maintained a commercial tradition for more than 15 years. "They are, without a doubt, great defenders of our brand," he stressed.

The global director of Institutional Relations of INDRA, Íñigo de Palacio, for his part, explained that the company he works for is a Spanish multinational consulting, technology and innovation company with leadership positions in the defense and security, transport and transport sectors. and air traffic control, in digital IT solutions in energy and industry, financial services, public administrations and telecommunications and media, being a relevant actor in its digital transformation. He also stressed that the company has more than 50,000 employees, has offices in 46 countries and businesses in more than 140.

On the other hand, Ínigo de Palacio reported that Panama is for Indra an extremely attractive center from which the business relationship with its clients in Central America and the Caribbean is managed. The Company's software factory in the country in the field of energy, provides support and technical support to customers worldwide, particularly in Latin America and Africa. In addition, he highlighted that Indra was the main technology provider in the great project of the Third Set of Locks of the Panama Canal.


The Secretary of State for Trade, Xiana Méndez, assured that relations in the economic field between Panama and Spain have always been excellent and endorsed by multiple bilateral agreements, in addition to the Association Agreement signed between the EU and Central America in 2013. " The historical, cultural and commercial ties that unite us reinforce the outstanding presence of Spanish companies in Panama, which employ thousands of Panamanians and contribute to the social development of the country, ”he emphasized.

Currently, he reported, Spain is one of the main economic partners of Panama, with more than 300 Spanish companies established in the country and the first by volume of public tenders awarded, with more than 10,000 million dollars accumulated since 2009, and by employment generated. In addition, the Central American country is, without a doubt and despite the current situation, a favorable destination for trade and investment relations, thanks to its political and economic stability, which offers an encouraging prospect, with an estimated growth of 4% in 2021 and with a positive business climate. The Panamanian economy also has solid assets, he stressed, such as the logistics and financial sector, among others, so it is expected that the economic recovery will soon arrive in the country. Méndez also highlighted a great business opportunity for Spanish companies, thanks to the economic reactivation infrastructure program to be developed in Panama.

The Vice Chancellor of the Republic of Panama, Federico Álvaro Boyd, emphasized that "Spain is a brother country, with which we have a deep friendship, and from which many of our cultural traditions derive." In the current context that we are going through, he added, the promotion of business opportunities takes on special relevance, which sectors, producers, exporters and investors can take advantage of to do business.

"We are also united by language, culture, a thriving Spanish community in our country and a history of mutual support and collaboration, which will now serve to boost private initiatives, in order to build a future full of opportunities." And to consolidate them, he added, there is no better tool than the EU-Central America Association Agreement, of which both countries are part. Despite this pandemic, he concluded, "we will always be able to find areas of common interest to strengthen our economies and promote our development to recover the levels of growth achieved so far."

For more information:

  • Consult presentation of the Director of Financing and Investor Relations of ICEXInvest in SpainSergio Vela.

  • See presentation from the director of ProPanama, Carmen Gisela Vergara.

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