Since the creation of the State of Panama goes hand in hand with the construction of the Panama Canal, the work of Frenchman Ferdinand de Lesseps is a perfect representation of French Panamanian shared heritage. In addition to our similar positions on many multilateral issues, our relationship with Panama is focused chiefly on two priorities: economic diplomacy and cooperation in vocational training and higher education.
France expects progress from Panama on financial transparency: in an order dated 8 April 2016, the Ministry of Finance and Public Accounts decided to once again add Panama to the French list of non-cooperative countries and territories (NCCT) in tax matters; this measure took effect on 1 January 2017 and has been renewed every year since. In June 2018, Panama also published a decree activating automatic exchange of information with France for tax purposes.
French community in Panama: 1,926 on consular register
- 10 June 2015: sidelines meeting between President Juan Carlos Varela and French President François Hollande in Brussels during the summit between the EU and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (EU-CELAC Summit).
Visits by Panamanian officials to France:
- 29 June 2015: meeting between Matthias Fekl, Minister of State for Trade, the Promotion of Tourism and French Nationals Abroad, and Augusto Arosemena, Vice-Minister of the Presidency
- From 28 October to 1 November 2015: visit to France by Ms Isabel de Saint Malo, Vice President and Foreign Minister. Meetings with the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development.
- End-November/early December 2015: visit by President Juan Carlos Varela for COP21.
Visits by French officials to Panama:
- 24-25 February 2013: visit by Minister Laurent Fabius to Panama.
- 26-27 June 2016: participation of Mr Jean-Pierre Bel, Personal Envoy of the President of the French Republic for Latin America and the Caribbean, in the Panama Canal expansion ceremonies. Meeting with Ms de Saint Malo.
- 21-22 January 2019: Jean-Christophe Peaucelle, former ambassador to Qatar and current religious affairs adviser at the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs attended World Youth Day in Panama.
- 19 August 2019: Visit by Mr Gérald Darmanin, French Minister for Government Action and Public Accounts.
France’s economic presence in Panama has been greatly strengthened since the 2000s (e.g. trade, direct investment and major contracts) and Panama is now one of France’s major customers in Latin America and its fourth-largest trade surplus in the region. French companies have participated in many large-scale projects: a water treatment plant built by Degrémont, inaugurated in 2013; a third bridge over the Panama Canal built by VINCI at the end of 2012; the first underground line opened in April 2014 (built by the Alstom, Thales, Cim-Tso, Sofratesa and Systra consortium) and the second line was opened 2019.
French investments are relatively diverse: approximately 40 French companies, including almost 20 large corporations, have set up in Panama in recent years. Most also use the country as a regional platform for action and management of their networks of subsidiaries and customers in the region.
After three years of steady growth, bilateral trade fell sharply from €590.6 million in 2019 to €372 million in 2020 (down 37%), mainly due to a strong decline in French exports related to the economic consequences of the pandemic. France has maintained a strong trade surplus of €348.25. Its main exports are in the aviation sector (ATR Aircraft).
French cooperation with Panama is part of our regional cooperation, the two main priorities of which are a focus on security, governance and human rights and an outreach policy based on education and academic and scientific cooperation. An agreement on mutual recognition of diplomas and periods of higher education study between the conferences of French establishments (CPU, CDEFI) and the Council of Rectors of Panama (CRP) was concluded on 26 September 2016.
The French cultural network consists of a school (French International Lycée of Panama, which moved to new premises in early 2022 that can accommodate 900 students) and two Alliance Française branches, in Panama City and David, totalling 1,259 students. French was reintroduced to the Panamanian curriculum in 2016 on the initiative of the Institut Français of Central America (IFAC), whose work is now being done by the regional Cooperation and Cultural Action Section (SCAC).
France and Panama are also cooperating on vocational training, justice and security, as well the climate and the environment.
The signing on 17 March 2017 of an agreement between the French National School for the Judiciary (ENM) and Panama’s Higher Institute of the Judiciary (ISJUP) on the training of judges enshrines the cooperation initiated several years ago between France and Panama in the judicial field. It provides for the organization of expert visits, the development of common training, the exchange of documentation and the promotion of seminars for judges from Panama.
Updated: June 2022