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France and Panama

Political relations

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 represents 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 and Panama disagree, however, on financial transparency issues: 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. In June 2018, Panama also published a decree activating automatic exchange of information with France for tax purposes.

The European Union also included Panama on its own list of NCCTs which was decided during the ECOFIN meeting on 6 December 2017. The country was withdrawn from Annex I of the list on 23 January 2018 on the basis of commitments from the country. Panama was also put back on the Financial Action Task Force black list on 21 June 2019.

Visits

  • 10 June 2015: sidelines meeting between President Juan Carlos Varela and the French President François Hollande on 10 June 2015 in Brussels, during the summit between the EU and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (EU-CELAC Summit).

Visits to France:

  • 29 June 2015: meeting between Mr Mathias Fekl, French Minister of State for Foreign Trade, the Promotion of Tourism and French Nationals Abroad, and Mr Augusto Arosemena, Deputy Minister of the Presidency.
  • 28 October-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 and the Secretary-General of the Presidency of the Republic.
  • Late November-early December 2015: visit by President Varela for COP21.

Visits to Panama:

  • 24-25 February 2013: visit by Minister of Foreign Affairs Laurent Fabius.
  • 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 enlargement ceremonies. Meeting with Ms de Saint Malo.

Economic relations

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 France’s fourth-largest trade surplus in the zone.

French companies have participated in many large-scale projects to support the development of Panama: a contract was won by the Degrémont company in 2009 to build a water treatment plant, inaugurated in 2013; the third bridge over the Panama Canal at the end of 2012, built by the French contractor VINCI; the first underground line opened in April 2014 (participation of the Alstom, Thales, Cim-Tso, Sofratesa and Systra consortium) and the contract for the second line was won in July 2015.

French investments are relatively diverse: approximately 40 French companies, including 20 large corporations, have set up in Panama in recent years. Most use the country as a regional platform for action and management of their networks of subsidiaries and customers in the region, while keeping an eye on the local market.

France has a trade surplus with Panama and trade reached an all-time high in 2018 with a total of €438.6 million in trade (up 38% on 2017), mainly led by the increase in exports of French products for aeronautics and space construction.
Air France has offered six non-stop weekly flights to Panama City from Paris-Charles de Gaulle, since November 2015.

Cultural, scientific and technical cooperation

French cooperation with Panama is part of our cooperation in the region, including the two following priorities: a focus on security, governance and human rights and an outreach policy based on educational, linguistic and university and scientific cooperation. An agreement on mutual recognition of diplomas and periods of higher education study between 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 Lycée of Panama, 420 students) and two Alliances Française branches, in Panama City and David, totalling 1,259 students). French has been re-introduced since 2016, at the instigation of the Institut Français of Central America (IFAC). This project currently involves some 30 schools in Panama.

For more information, visit the website of the Institut Français of Central America

France and Panama are also cooperating on vocational training: together, they are developing initial and continuous training for technicians and senior technicians in several fields, including rail maintenance, energy, construction and public works.

Other cooperation

The signature on 17 March 2017 of an agreement between the French National School of 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: October 2019