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Saturday, May 25 2019 @ 11:57 AM UTC

Exports to Panama grow at fastest pace in last 5 years

Money MattersBy Malminderjit Singh - Panama has emerged as Singapore's fastest-growing export market in the five years ended 2011, with a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 19.9 per cent. This is mainly due to shipments of oil-related and pharmaceutical products, said Lee-Khoo Wee Lin, IE Singapore group director for planning. In value terms, exports to Panama increased to $14.3 billion in 2011 from $5.8 billion in 2007.

Part of this growth can be attributed to the free trade agreement (FTA) signed in March 2006, covering trade in goods, services, financial services, telecommunications, e-commerce, investment protection, competition, government procurement, and dispute settlement. Panama accounts for just a small proportion of Singapore's total exports, 2.8 per cent, but the prospects for trade growth are promising - and not just the country but also the Latin American region as a whole.

"Trade provides a good foundation for us to partner Panama. As our first bilateral FTA partner in Latin America, Panama is a strategic gateway for trade and investment into a young, fast-growing and rapidly developing region," Ms Lee-Khoo explained. "With rapid population growth, rising middle class and urbanisation, other emerging economies like Latin America and Africa hold attractive opportunities for Singapore companies to share their experience."

Trade agreements are a pivotal factor in most of Singapore's other fastest growing export markets. China, which accounted for 10.4 per cent of Singapore's 2011 exports, signed an FTA in October 2008. That was the first comprehensive bilateral FTA that China had signed with another Asian country. Singapore's exports to China increased to $53.7 billion in 2011 from $43.5 billion in 2007, giving a CAGR of 4.3 per cent - just behind Panama.

Factoring in Hong Kong's share of Singapore's exports -11 per cent - then China as a whole makes up more than a fifth of 2011 shipments. Singapore's exports to the former British colony grew to $56.8 billion from $47.2 billion in 2007 - a CAGR of 3.8 per cent.

Malaysia and Indonesia are the other key markets for Singapore, accounting for 12.2 per cent and 10.4 per cent of total 2011 exports. Although they do not have bilateral FTAs with Singapore, all three countries are part of the Asean Trade in Goods Agreement (ATIGA), which came into force in May 2010. Exports to Indonesia grew to $53.7 billion in 2011 from $44.3 billion in 2007 - a CAGR of 3.9 per cent. For Malaysia, the respective numbers are $62.8 billion, $58.1 billion and 1.2 per cent.

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