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PANAMA - Diplomacy

Guzmán Palacios

Ambassador, Spain in Panama

Bio

Guzmán Palacios graduated in law and began his diplomatic career in 2005. He has been assigned to the diplomatic representations of Spain in Venezuela, Mexico, and Nicaragua. Among other positions, he was chief of staff of the secretaries of state for international cooperation, Ibero-America and the Caribbean, and international cooperation in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, EU, and Cooperation.

"At an economic and commercial level, the relationship is good, although obviously it has suffered the impact of the pandemic, and the tension generated worldwide following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine."
Spain plans to use its presidency of the Council of the EU in 2023 to further strengthen ties and improve links between Europe and Latin America.
How would you evaluate the commercial and economic relationship between Panama and Spain?

At an economic and commercial level, the relationship is good, although obviously it has suffered the impact of the pandemic, and the tension generated worldwide following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. And while I consider the relationship positive, it could be improved, like anything else. There is significant scope for growth, and the recurring message that we give to the Panamanian authorities is that Spain wants to be a strategic ally, a trustful partner of Panama, and our companies want to continue working in this country. Panama offers particularly attractive conditions. There is the geo-strategic location of Panama, between the two growth poles of the US and South America. It is located in the heart of Central America, importantly with great air connections. There is also a matter of legal certainty, with its deficiencies, but in relative terms it is a point of attraction. In addition, there is the encouraging macroeconomic condition of the country, where we observed striking growth rates in 2022, that many European countries would wish to have, of above 5% or 6% of GDP. The forecasts for 2023 are also positive. Panama has another virtue that is highly attractive for Spanish companies, namely high personal security, which is particularly valued by the expatriate community.

In what specific areas could Spain contribute to the development of Panama, and what actions are likely to bring the two countries closer commercially?

The Spanish presence is felt across all sectors. There is a local presence of Spanish airlines with connections to Europe, thus providing a connection point between both shores. There are areas for improvement, but that is for a company itself to discern. Meanwhile, the Panamanian authorities are set to advance a series of public or private initiatives that may be of interest to Spanish companies. Though not a universal issue, we have observed certain challenges in the construction sector that are of periodic concern at the governmental level. We have expressed these concerns to the relevant Panamanian authorities, and I believe that they are areas of improvement that enable Spanish companies to operate calmly here. In any case, the will of the Spanish company is to remain in Panama. We love this country and want to continue betting on it. There is a connection that has links that stretch back to the past and that are reinforced by a common language and almost fraternal ties between countries and the population. What we are trying now is to strengthen the Spanish Chamber of Commerce in Panama as the main platform for operation in the country.

What activities and main focuses does the institution have in 2023?

As both the President and the Minister of Foreign Affairs for Cooperation have reiterated, Spain wants to focus, with a view to its Presidency of the Council of the EU in 2H2023, on strengthening ties between Europe and Latin America. The High Representative of the EU himself mentioned that there are no two more compatible regions in the world than Europe and Latin America, and it is true. Precisely because of this close link, and the shared principles and values, the Spanish Presidency is keen to focus on organizing a summit of the Heads of State of the EU and Latin America and the Caribbean, to resume that regional association, which we hope will translate into the beginning of the agreements that are pending with Mercosur, which basically serve to reinforce the existing one with Central America, as well as the one with Mexico and Chile, where there is space for improvement. This is both feasible and desirable. The main mandate is to continue strengthening bilateral relations between the two countries with the perspective of the Presidency of the Council of the EU.

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