(MENAFN - Newsroom Panama)
Panama President, Laurentino Cortizo, ruled out on Wednesday, September 11 a cooling in relations with China, although the government stalled the negotiations of a bilateral free trade agreement and sidelined a bullet train from Panama to Chiriquí that Beijing hoped to build.
"Panama's relationship with China is extremely important there is no doubt," Cortizo said in a meeting with foreign press correspondents.
Washington viewed with suspicion the opening of diplomatic relations between Panama and Beijing in 2017, after which the two countries signed more than twenty agreements in various areas. They also began the negotiation of an FTA and began the study for the construction of a train between the Panamanian capital and the border with Costa Rica. However, the government of Cortizo has slowed the FTA negotiations and has rejected at least for the moment the construction of the train proposed by Beijing, which generated speculation about a freeze in relations with China due to pressure from the United States.
Beijing has argued that Panama, with the Canal, its dollarized economy and its strategic position, can be the spearhead for its expansion through Latin America.
"It is incorrect" that Panama has cooled its relations with China, Cortizo said. "Good investments from the United States and China can come to Panama," he said and affirmed that the paralysis of the train is due to the fact that "it is not a priority" and would cost Panama more than $4, billion
. On the FTA with China, he indicated that at the moment Panama prefers to "analyze each chapter" to "be clear where we are going" with what has been negotiated to date.
The United States is the main user of the Panama Canal, it is also the first investor in the Central American country and the main destination of its exports.
Relations with the United States and China are "of great interest to Panama and one does not have to interfere with the other," said Panamanian Foreign Minister Alejandro Ferrer. "Panama's relationship with any country should not in any way interfere with relations with another," Ferrer added.