Canada and Panama share strong bilateral ties going back over a half century, with the two countries having established diplomatic relations in 1961. Canada considers Panama to be an important like-minded partner in the region with whom we share a common vision for a more secure, prosperous and democratic hemisphere.
In Panama, Canada is represented by the Embassy of Canada in Panama City, which in 2015 celebrates the 20th year of its establishment. Besides bilateral programs, the Embassy also houses three regional offices: the Regional Office for Emergency Management (Latin America and the Caribbean); the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (Panama and Costa Rica); and a regional Customs and Border Services Agency (Panama, Colombia and Ecuador). Panama is represented in Canada by an Embassy in Ottawa with consulates in Vancouver, Toronto and Montréal.
We are pleased to be working with Panama as they prepare to host the VII Summit of the Americas, on April 10-11. Canada hosted the III Summit in Quebec City in 2001, and considers the Summit process an essential forum to discuss hemispheric issues at the level of heads of State. The Americas is a foreign policy priority for the Government of Canada and our Strategy for Engagement in the Americas focusses our efforts on three inter-linked and mutually reinforcing priorities: increasing economic prosperity, addressing insecurity and advancing freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law and fostering lasting relationships.
2015 also marks Canada’s 25th year as a full member of the Organization of American States (OAS). The OAS is the region’s premier multilateral forum and provides a crucial venue for cooperation with hemispheric partners. Being a member of the OAS has allowed Canada to deepen its relations with Latin American and the Caribbean at various levels. Also in 2015, Canada is looking forward to hosting the XVII Pan American Games and V Parapan American Games in Toronto in July and August. We look forward to welcoming athletes and visitors from Panama and from across the Americas.
Canada and Panama have established strong economic ties, and commercial relations continue to expand. In the Central America region, Panama is our sixth largest merchandise trading partner and our third largest merchandise export destination. Two-way merchandise trade between Canada and Panama in 2014 amounted to $106.5 million. Canadian merchandise exports to Panama in 2014 totaled nearly $95.5 million, and included machinery, paper and paperboard, meat, pharmaceuticals, and vegetables. Imports from Panama in 2014 were valued at $11.1 million and consisted principally of vegetables, fish products, machinery, stone, plaster and cement products, and coffee, tea and spices. Since entering into force in April 2013, the Canada-Panama FTA has eliminated tariffs on Canadian goods exported to Panama while promoting greater protection, predictability and transparency for Canadian and Panamanian businesses.
High level visits to Panama include the 2009 visit of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, three visits of Minister of State Ablonczy (Minister for the Americas and Consular Affairs) and the visit of the Minister of Foreign Affairs John Baird in 2013 when he had the occasion to meet with then Vice President (today President) of Panama – Juan Carlos Varela. In 2014, Minister Baird met with his counterpart, Foreign Minister and Vice President of Panama – Ms. Saint Malo.
The Embassy of Canada to Panama manages the Canada Fund for Local Initiatives (CFLI), which provides financial assistance for modest-scale projects in the country. In the past two years, Canada has supported projects focussed on institutional strengthening in the area of democratic institutions: supporting free and fair elections and encouraging a greater participation of women in the political process; human rights: reform of the penal system and promotion of LGBTI rights; and rule of law: combatting human trafficking and modernization of the justice system with restorative and conflict resolution programs.
The Emerging Leaders in the Americas Program (ELAP), announced by Prime Minister Stephen Harper at the Summit of the Americas in 2009, provides short term scholarship opportunities for students from Latin America and the Caribbean to study or conduct research in Canada. The program is predicated on Canadian and Panamanian institutional linkages which facilitate the creation of scholarship opportunities. These academic agreements help foster research collaborations and student exchanges. Since 2009, more than 100 Panamanian students have participated in exchange opportunities for study or research at the college, undergraduate and graduate level through this and other programmes. In addition to the ELAP scholarships, Panamanian students are encouraged to apply for other Canadian awards open to all international students including the prestigious Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarships and the Banting Postdoctoral Fellowships.