Chinese President Xi Jinping Monday explained relations between his country and Panama have ”gotten off to a strong start in just a year-and-a-half” after the establishment of diplomatic ties in June 2017.
Xi Jinping said those words in Panama City as he ratified his country's interest to build an “open” world economy.
Xi Jinping is on a round-the-world tour to promote China’s strategic plan, known as “The New Silk Road” to incorporate other countries and create a network whereby China can distribute its products and secure the raw materials its industry requires.
Because of its strategic location and connectivity, Panama can be “China’s commercial arm in – and gateway into – Latin America,” said Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela.
China is the second biggest user – after the US – of the Panama Canal, and the first supplier in the Colon Free Trade Zone on Panama’s Caribbean coast, the hemisphere’s largest free trade area.
Chinese firms, in addition, recently have won multimillion dollar bids to build a kilometer-long (about 0.6 miles) bridge over the Panama Canal, a convention center and a cruise ship terminal.
Xi and Varela held a private bilateral meeting and signed agreements on tourism, training, languages, agriculture and visa flexibility which rounded up previous accords signed during Varela's trip to Beijing in November 2017.
The Panama Canal, which started operation in 1914, is a key international man-made waterway that links the Pacific and the Atlantic Oceans. It was taken over by the Panamanian government in 1999 but the United States remained as main users.
After Panama, the Chinese leader will continue his regional tour by visiting the Dominican Republic and El Salvador.