Diplomatic ties between China and Panama formalized in joint communique

World Today

Panama’s Foreign Minister Isabel de Saint Malo, left, and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, second from right, sign a joint communique on establishing diplomatic relations, in Beijing Tuesday, June 13, 2017. (Greg Baker/Pool Photo via AP)

Following Monday night’s announcement that China and Panama had established diplomatic ties, officials in both countries have made it official in signing a joint communique.

The next step will be trade talks between the two nations on cooperation in tourism, trade, immigration, agriculture, education and shipping.

Panamanian Vice President Isabel de Saint Malo and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi met in Beijing Tuesday to sign the joint communique that formally establishes ambassador-level diplomatic relations. They also had a champagne toast after the signing.

Wang said he was sure relations between the two countries would have a “bright future.”

Saint Malo said she hoped the new relationship would lead to trade, investment and tourism opportunities, in particular “exporting more goods from Panama to China.”

The communique says that Pamana “severs diplomatic relations with Taiwan” and will undertake not to have any more officials relations or exchanges with Taiwan — an island populated mainly by Chinese Kumomingtang who lost the Chinese civil war in 1949. China has a non-negotiable One-China policy and the government regards Taiwan as an integral part of it.

“The Government of the Republic of Panama recognizes that there is but one China in the world, that the Government of the People’s Republic of China is the sole legal government representing the whole of China, and that Taiwan is an inalienable part of China’s territory,” the statement read.

De Saint Malo said the decision to establish ties with China was a strategic one that was made on the basis of the two countries’ interests. She also said it would open a new chapter for the relations between the two countries.

Wang said that Panama is an important Latin American country, and that their ties will help deepen cooperation between China and Latin America as well as the Caribbean area.

In a later meeting with Chinese Vice President Li Yuanchao in the Great Hall of the People, De Saint Malo also said that Panama would like to become a portal of China-Latin America cooperation.

Panama had been among the largest economies to have maintained diplomatic relations with Taiwan. The island now has just 20 formal diplomatic partners, 11 of which are in Latin America and the Caribbean. The island is also excluded from the United Nations and other multinational bodies.

Panama’s switch could lead to other nations following suit, said Tang Yonghong, director of the Taiwan Economic Research Center at Xiamen University in southeastern China.

“Many Latin American countries want to have stronger ties with China for their national interests,” Tang said. “Now this trend could continue for a while.”

In his announcement of the establishment of relations on Monday, Panama President Juan Carlos Varela said that economic ties between the two nations were one reason for his decision.

“Both nations are betting on a more interconnected world,” Varela said. He also cited a massive Chinese vessel that was the first to pass through the canal’s expanded locks when they opened in June 2016.

China is the second-biggest client of the Panama Canal and the leading provider of merchandise to a free-commerce zone in the Panamanian city of Colon, on the country’s Caribbean coast.

China also said that economic ties were important. Foreign Minister Wang told De Saint Malo that China welcomes Panama’s participation in China’s Belt and Road Initiative.

Story by CGTN with information from Xinhua and the Associated Press.