China cuts ribbon on embassy in Panama, establishing full relations

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China Panama Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi (4-L), Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela (4-R) and Panamanian Foreign Minister Isabel De Saint Malo (3-R) pose for pictures with other authorities during a visit to the Panama Canal’s Miraflores Locks in Panama City, on September 17, 2017. Wang Yi is making his first official visit to Panama since the Central American country established formal diplomatic ties with China in June 2017. / AFP PHOTO / Rodrigo ARANGUA

China opened a new embassy in Panama on Sunday. The two countries have had close relations for years, but formal diplomatic relations are a more recent development. 

CGTN’s Paulo Cabral reports from Panama.

China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela inaugurated the new Chinese embassy in Panama City. The opening marks an important development in relations between the two countries.

“This Chinese embassy in Panama will be the new home for the Chinese community, and the Chinese companies in Panama, to help them if they ever have any problems or difficulties,” Wang said. “We’ll make every effort to help them solve their problems and to defend them from rain and wind.”

For years, China and Panama had strong trade relations, but did not establish for diplomatic relations. Over the summer, however, the two agreed to come closer together when Panama’s government severed ties with the authorities in Taiwan.

“This shows clearly the resolve, from both governments, at the highest level, and makes sure it will contribute to the economic development of both our countries,” according to President Varela.

Business leaders said the establishing of formal relations provides a sense of stability, reassuring them that there is a safe and suitable environment to invest. With the new embassy, visitors and businesspeople will also be better able to secure visas for travel.

China is the second largest user of the Panama Canal, and officials say they hope to turn Panama into a hub for distributing Chinese goods in the Americas.

Wang and Varela also confirmed that Chinese President Xi Jinping invited the president of Panama for an official visit to China, which was accepted and is expected to happen this year.

For more on China’s diplomatic ties with Panama, CGTN’s Wang Guan talked with Bruno Binetti. He’s a Research Fellow at the Inter-American Dialogue. It’s a think tank focused on policy for Latin America and the Caribbean.