Qatar and Panama continue to share robust trade and economic relations despite the impact of the ongoing health crisis across the international community, Panama’s top diplomat in Doha said.
“The Embassy of Panama in Qatar is working in collaboration with the different authorities and institutions in the State of Qatar to create boundaries and bridges between both the countries that will result in an increase of trade,” ambassador Musa Asvat told Gulf Times.
Aside from trade, Asvat noted that the embassy is also co-operating with Qatar authorities “in innovations and other areas, especially now that new trends will be driving investments for the ‘new customer’ that will emerge once the ‘new normal’ will start, assuring that business continuity and communication will increase.”
According to Asvat, the economy of Panama is based mainly on the services sector, which accounts for nearly 80% of the country’s GDP and accounts for most of its foreign income.
“These services include the Panama Canal, banking sector, retail and wholesale commerce, the Colón Free Trade Zone, insurance sector, logistics and transport, ship registry, medical and health sector, and tourism. The country’s industry includes manufacturing of aircraft spare parts, cement, beverages, adhesives, and textiles. Additionally, exports from Panama include bananas, shrimp, sugar, coffee, and clothing.
“In 2019, trade figures registered imports from Qatar at above $800,000, mainly in plastics and derivatives. During the first semester of 2019, Panamanian exports to Qatar were around $100,000, mainly in coffee, tea, cocoa, and derivatives,” Asvat explained.
Asked if the pandemic will have an impact on future import-export figures and trade relations between both the countries, Asvat noted that the first quarter of 2020 has been a challenge for trade worldwide.
“In Panama, the government is closely working hard with the private sector to develop and take all the necessary measures to mitigate the impact of the pandemic, but this will also depend on how other countries and regions will cope with the current circumstances.
“Our economy is highly-depend on a variety of services. Before the Covid-19 outbreak, main economic firms’ forecast of year-on-year growth was expected to be around 4.5% for Panama during 2020, but now it is expected to increase in between 2.0% and 2.5%,” Asvat emphasised.
Asvat said Panama is a top commercial, logistical, and air transport hub in the Americas. With 90 air connections to 34 countries in the Americas and Europe through its main airport, and the Panama Canal handling 5% of world maritime trade, Panama is one of Latin America’s busiest transit points today, he said.
“This exposed us to be one of the first countries in Latin America to have a particularly high concentration of coronavirus infections and more risk than other countries in the region,” Asvat pointed out.
He added: “The rapid intervention of Panama on dealing with the outbreak has reduced its impact, as a result of more testing, identifying where the cases are located by every sector, and with clear and transparent communication to the population on a daily basis through the media to inform all citizens.
“Authorities have imposed tighter containment measures, a total lockdown on weekends, curfews, and strict hygiene information and procedures.”
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