Following Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela and Chinese President Xi Jinping signing 19 bilateral agreements in November, Panama’s Foreign Minister last week presented three of the agreements – related to civil aviation, maritime transport, and embassy leasing – before the National Assembly for ratification. On 2 February, officials from both nations met at the Panamanian Foreign Ministry and discussed China’s proposal to build a high-speed rail line from Panama City to the western province of Chiriqui. The following week, Panama’s Chamber of Commerce, Industries and Agriculture (CCIAP) and China’s Qingdao Chamber of Commerce signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to deepen business ties and cooperation in logistics, construction and business services. The head of the CCIAP estimated that investment from Qingdao companies could exceed US$5bn. The same day that the Chambers of Commerce signed the MOU, the Panamanian Minister of Economy and Finance said his government would analyse issuing Chinese ‘panda bonds’ – a type of debt denominated in the Chinese currency sold by foreign entities to help finance budgets – if favourable conditions are met.
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