July 14, 2021

Panama President Cortizo visits Texas to celebrate Lone Star trading partner

Texas is already Panama’s No. 1 trading partner in the United States, but the expansion of the Panama Canal and new strategic economic initiatives are expected to make a substantial impact on trade between the two, President Laurentino Cortizo said Wednesday.

Texas and Panama celebrated their strong trade relationship at a luncheon for Cortizo at the Austin Marriott Downtown. The Texas Economic Development Corporation and ProPanama jointly hosted the event, which included Texas government officials, the CEOs of Texas-based companies, and a delegation of Panamanian officials.

“President Cortizo’s visit to Texas is a shining example of cooperation and collaboration in a long history of friendship with Panama, said Joe Esparza, Texas’ Deputy Secretary of State. “Texas is proud of our shared cultural and economic ties, and we look forward to further expanding relations, thanks to the foundations strengthened here today.”

Strengthening trade between Panama and Texas

Robert Allen, TxEDC President and CEO, emphasized the importance of the Texas-Panama trade relationship.

“As the 9th largest economy in the world, Texas is poised to further advance its position in the world economy by developing and nurturing important strategic relationships with top government and private business leaders in Panama,” Allen said.

Texas accounted for more than $2 billion or 36% of the nearly $5.8 billion worth of U.S. merchandise exports to Panama in 2020. Several Texas seaports, including Port Arthur, Port of Beaumont, Port of Brownsville, Port of Corpus Christi, Port of Freeport and Port of Houston, receive ships traveling through the Panama Canal.

Panama the Central American hub for global commerce

The expansion of the Panama Canal in 2016 and Panama’s energetic efforts to build on its status as the Central American hub for global commerce offers exciting possibilities for partnership and increased trade, Cortizo said.

“There is untapped potential we can reach,” he said.

Texas ports have deepened or plan to deepen their channels to harmonize with the $5.3 billion Panama Canal expansion.

“Deeper channels mean bigger ships and more cargo. Strategic investment in Texas ports better positions Texas to take advantage of the new trade opportunities created by the canal expansion,” Allen said.

In addition, Panama’s economic development community is newly armed with legislation designed to attract more foreign investment. This includes provisions for enhanced internet connectivity, a strategic energy strategy that includes renewable energy, and increased nearshoring opportunities that would help address future supply chain issues like those that have arisen during the global pandemic.

“There’s not a better place (to do business) than Panama, Cortizo said.

In addition to Austin, Cortizo has visited Dallas suburb Irving, Texas, and will visit Houston before returning to Panama this week.