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Monday, April 22 2019 @ 08:37 AM UTC

Economic Advantages in Panama

Shopping A critical aspect in establishing a new business relationship with Panama is being assured that merchants in the Cayman Islands will receive the goods purchased and the supplier will be paid. Since Scotiabank already has a well-established office in the country, they were able to help provide some helpful information to get started according to the Assistant General Manager of Scotiabank, Bruce John. “It was very helpful to understand how you protect yourself,” said Mr John. “It might take the first two or three transactions to get things smooth and then it will improve from there.” Mr John explained that because Scotiabank already had relationships in Cayman and Panama, he made several introductions between businesses. Such as introducing a local supermarket to poultry and coffee distributors. These initial discussions also lead to visiting plants and stores to see the types of product available. Then it is just of matter of smoothing out the logistics he noted. Another benefit is the Panama branch can use their local contacts to find out if a wholesaler or manufacturer is reputable. He noted that Panama is the most bilingual country in Latin America, which makes it simpler to establish business relationships.

He added the Colon Free Trade Zone is enormous and that some businesses were put off with the low budget storefronts of many wholesalers. However, a low budget storefront is not necessarily an indication of the quality of their merchandise or service.

What the visit to the Free Trade Zone accomplished was to give businesses a head start in establishing contacts. But since the Free Trade Zone is enormous some businesses may need more guidance from the Cayman Islands Chamber of Commerce.

One critical factor for more trade with Panama is transporting the goods to Cayman either by sea or air. The CEO of the Chamber, Wil Pineau, said there were discussions between Cayman Airways and Panama’s national carrier Copa Airlines.

Furthermore, Seaboard Marine is also working on direct routes if enough trading volume can be generated between the two countries to make it viable. He added the presence of the Cayman Government officials opened up opportunities.

“There were several meetings between ministries and Government in both counties about issues that not only affect Cayman, but affect Panama as well,” said Mr Pineau. “And they were able to talk about how they handle them, such as low cost housing and health care.

“Many businesses took note that brand name clothing and shoes were great value at 30 to 40 percent less than can be purchased in the US. Electronics were estimated to be 10 to 15 percent less than in Miami. But there was a broad range of products available for many industries including construction, telecommunications, food and beverage and household furnishings.

Mr Pineau said the whole idea behind the Panama Trade Mission is identifying imports at lower price points as well as decreasing this country’s dependence on the US. Government officials that participated in the Panama Trade Mission included HE Governor Stuart Jack, Minister of Tourism, Hon Charles Clifford, Minister of Health Services, Hon Anthony Eden, Minister of Communications, Hon Arden McLean and Sister Islands MLA, Moses Kirkconnell.
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