Panama & China

Panama – China relations, also called Sino-Panaman relations, made headlines on June 12th 2017 when the Republic of Panama established diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China, and thereby severed ties with Taiwan.

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Panama had maintained diplomatic relations with Taiwan, also called the Republic of China, since 1911, following the Xinhai Revolution that overthrew China’s last imperial dynasty. However, beginning in 1909, Panama had maintained diplomatic relations with the Qing Dynasty.

Panama had maintained uninterrupted diplomatic relations longer than any other country with the Republic of China, whose sovereignty includes the islands of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen, Matsu and other smaller islands.

Read more about Panama’s relationship with the Republic of China (Taiwan) below or here.

Panama – China Establish Diplomatic Relations

On June 13th 2017 (June 12th 2017 Panama time), Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi met with Panamanian Vice President and Foreign Minister Isabel Saint Malo de Alvarado in Beijing, China to sign the joint statement.

The official communication released by Panama’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs can be found here.

The translated version is:

Joint Statement Between the Republic of Panama and the People’s Republic of China on the Establishment of Diplomatic Relations

In light of the interests and desire of both nations, the Republic of Panama and the People’s Republic of China decide to grant mutual recognition and to establish diplomatic relations at the ambassadorial level, effective upon the date this statement is signed.

The two Governments agree to develop friendly ties between the two countries on the basis of the principles of mutual respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, non-aggression, non-intervention in one of the other’s internal affairs, equality and mutual benefit, and peaceful coexistence.

The Government of the Republic of Panama recognizes that there is only one China in the world, the Government of the People’s Republic of China, the only legitimate Government that represents all of China, and that Taiwan forms an inalienable part of the Chinese territory. Today, the Government of the Republic of Panama breaks its “diplomatic relations” with Taiwan, and commits itself to break all official relationships and contact with Taiwan. The Government of the People’s Republic of China expresses its appreciation for the aforementioned position of the Government of the Republic of Panama.

The Government of the Republic of Panama and the Government of the People’s Republic of China agree, in accordance with the stipulations of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961 and international practice, on the prompt and mutual sending of Ambassadors and to provide, according to reciprocity, all the necessary help for the establishment of the Embassy of the other Party in their respective capitals as well as facilitating the execution of their functions.

With the authorization of their respective Governments, the representatives of both Parties sign the statement in the city of Beijing, on the thirteenth (13) day of the month of June of 2017, in two copies in the Chinese and Spanish languages, both texts being equally authentic.

Juan Carlos Varela’s Message to Panama on the Establishment of Diplomatic Relations with China

Juan Carlos Varela‘s message to the nation on June 12th 2017, given from the Palacio de las Garzas prior to the actual signing of the Joint Statement, can be seen below or downloaded here.

 The translated version is:

Announcement to the Republic of Panama by the President Juan Carlos Varela on the establishment of diplomatic relations between the Republic of Panama and the People’s Republic of China. June 12, 2017.

I am addressing the nation today to announce that we have made the decision to establish diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China.

Since 2007, I have made my position public that the Republic of Panama should establish diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China. Today, as constitutional President of Panama, being consistent with this position, I ratify it because I am convinced that it is the right path for our country.

Therefore, the Vice President and Foreign Minister of the Republic, Isabel de Saint Malo de Alvarado, is in Beijing.

A moment ago, the Foreign Ministers of Panama and China met to finalize negotiations and to sign the Memorandum of Understanding, establishing diplomatic relations between our countries. In about an hour, the joint statement will be signed by which this decision is made public to the world and both Foreign Ministers will address the Press.

Until the Panama Canal opened, the railroad transported the largest volume of cargo per unit of length of all railroads in the world. The existence of the railroad was a key factor in the selection of Panama for the construction of the Canal.

On June 26th 2016, the Chinese ship Cosco Shipping Panama made history by being the first to use the expanded Canal. Today, almost one year after the opening of this great work and the decision to establish relations with China, I see this choice made at random by the Panama Canal Authority as a pleasant coincidence and a point that brought both countries closer.

This step is also an acknowledgment to the Chinese – Panamanian community, which has played an important role in Panama’s economic and social development, participating in all economic, social and political activities of our country, some even reaching important positions in the Panamanian government.

The role of Chinese associations in our country has been of great importance for Panamanian society: they have provided us with a space for a friendly and ongoing exchange between our countries.

To this day, the Republic of Panama lacked diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China, a State that alone represents 20% of the world’s population and constitutes the world’s second largest economy. This is a situation that a responsible leader could not continue to allow.

During several administrations, the governments of Panama and China have tried to come together to take this step, but for reasons that are not my responsibility to explain, the negotiations could not be finalized.

The People’s Republic of China has always played an important role in Panama’s economy. Currently, it is the Canal’s second most important user and the Colon Free Zone’s largest merchandise supplier.

Large Chinese multinationals from the logistics, energy, banking, telecommunications, construction and technology sectors have established themselves in Panama, taking advantage of our country for its world-class services and being a gateway to the Americas, which in turn translates into new jobs and training for Panamanians.

The role that the People’s Republic of China plays at a regional and global level is important. Both countries are committed to the connection of an increasingly integrated world, which also creates a whole new era of opportunities for the relationship that we begin today.

With this decision we join the 174 other nations that have recognized Resolution 2758 of 1971 of the General Assembly of the United Nations.

Therefore, today, as President of the Republic of Panama, I am confident that the time has come for this relationship to strengthen: Panama and China are developing nations and we share the same views on the importance of globalization and the States’ shared responsibility to make the global development agenda, as indicated within the Sustainable Development Goals 2030, a reality.

Taiwan has been a great friend of Panama and we are very grateful for their friendship and for their cooperation on Panama’s development during our diplomatic relationship.

We will ensure that the process resulting from this decision is seamless and satisfactory. For this purpose, we have appointed a team within the Foreign Ministry to handle this in a constructive way.

The establishment of diplomatic relations between Panama and the People’s Republic of China has great potential for all. For this reason, I have instructed my Cabinet to ready their teams so that Panama can sign the necessary agreements in the short and medium term for tourism, commercial, immigration, agricultural, cultural, educational, maritime and for all other topics beneficial to our people.

We will lay the foundations to build a relationship based on trust, respect and the common good.

Today we have taken a historic step with transparency, based on mutual respect and the permanent search for our peoples’ welfare through international cooperation on the consolidation of social peace in our countries and in the world.

I am sure that this step will benefit our nations, present and future generations.

Looking always with my head held high, I can tell the Panamanian people that we have once again fulfilled our word in the pursuit of the best interests of the nation.

Panama and China Sign 19 Tourism and Trade Agreements

On November 19th 2017, Panama and the People’s Republic of China signed agreements related to trade, agriculture, tourism and the maritime sector.

Varela visited China to witness the signing of these agreements, and was hosted by Xi  Jinping, the General Secretary of the Communist Party of China, with whom he spoke about bilateral issues and the resumption of diplomatic relations.

Varela said that the agreements coincide with Xi Jinping’s closing message during the Congress of the Communist Party, where he affirmed that “politics is service and the search for the welfare of the people, who own the country’s wealth.”

The economic and commercial agreements formalized “a policy for the promotion of investments, the financing of development projects and infrastructure,” said the Secretary of State Communication.

In addition, “the terms and conditions” were established to facilitate and promote Panamanian exports to China.

Additionally, tourism “will be revitalized” with the inclusion of Panama as an approved and promoted tourist destination, especially given the relaxed visa requirements Chinese citizens.

Varela published the following Tweet on November 17th 2017, saying:

I want to thank President Xi Jinping of the People’s Republic of China for hosting this historic state visit that strengthens the new diplomatic relationship between our nations. #PanamaChina

Flights from Beijing, China to Panama

Panama is soon to add yet another destination to its flight repertoire. As of March 2018, Air China will offer a direct flight between Beijing and Tocumen. The aircraft will be a Boeing 777-300ER (“ER” for Extended Range), considered the world’s largest commercial twin-engine plane, with a capacity of 380 people. The Beijing, China – Tocumen, Panama flight will have a duration of 17 hours and 27 minutes.

Boeing 777-300ER Flights from Beijing China to Tocumen Panama

Boeing 777-300ER in flight

Currently, the longest journey to and from Panama is with Turkish Airlines to Istanbul, Turkey, with a duration of 13 hours and 19 minutes.

During the week of December 18th, representatives from Air China inspected the Tocumen terminal, where the Boeing 777-300ER will land.

History of Panama – Taiwan Relations

The Consulate General of the Republic of China (Taiwan) was established in Panama at the beginning of the 20th century, attending to the isthmus’s Chinese immigrants, which began to arrive in the latter half of the 19th century.

On March 30, 1854, the first group of Chinese laborers arrived aboard the Clipper Sea Witch to work on the Panama Railroad. By the early 20th century, they were already established as a critical player in Panama’s economy, owning over 600 retail stores and playing a crucial role in providing the entire country with provisions.

Read more about Ethnic Chinese in Panama here. Don’t forget to check out the reference section!

In 1922, a diplomatic delegation was founded in Panama City, being elevated to the category of embassy in 1954. The Republic of Panama had established an embassy in the Republic of China (Taiwan) in 1933.

The Republic of China (Taiwan) had a cultural presence in Panama, being one of the benefactors of the creation of the Chinese Panamanian Cultural Center – Sun Yat-sen Institute. The Chinese-Panamanian Friendship Park, a symbol of friendship between the two countries, was inaugurated in Panama City in September 1997.

Since January 1st 2001, the Republic of China (Taiwan) and Panama had a Free Trade Agreement. In 2005, Taiwan exported to Panama approximately 26 million dollars worth of goods, whereas Panama exported to Taiwan approximately 20 million dollars worth of goods.

As can be seen from the following screenshot, the Republic of China (Taiwan) no longer maintains a presence in Panama.

Taiwan no longer maintains a presence in Panama