48 Years of Friendship: Going Forward to a Panama and Việt Nam Excellent Future

August 28, 2023 - 08:04

Panamanian ambassador Eligio Salas III wrote to Việt Nam News on August 28, the 48th anniversary of friendship between the two countries.

Panamanian ambassador Eligio Salas III wrote to Việt Nam News on August 28, the 48th anniversary of friendship between the two countries.

Việt Nam and Panama are half a world away by distance and our countries differ greatly in size and population but our peoples share very common values when it comes to the belief in peaceful coexistence and the welfare of our nations. So even though we are separated by a great ocean our similarities are a testament to the affection, closeness, and mutual bonds of friendship we cherish.

On the occasion of the 48th anniversary of Diplomatic Relations between the Republic of Panama and Việt Nam, I would like to compile several important milestones of our relationship and our vision for the future.

On August 28, 1975, the Republic of Panama and the Socialist Republic of Việt Nam signed a Memorandum of Understanding establishing diplomatic relations between both nations.

Atlantic entrance of the Panama Canal. Visualisation of the Aguas Claras Locks and the Atlantic Bridge. Photo Courtesy of Panama Canal Authority

In September 1979, then Prime Minister H.E. Phạm Văn Đồng arrived in Panama, marking the first and most important visit ever made by one of Việt Nam’s highest leaders to Panama. During this official visit, both sides discussed the future relationship, and the many ways the relationship could grow and develop going forward.

Months later on November 6, 1979, as a direct result of the official visit of the Prime Minister, the Socialist Republic of Việt Nam became the first country to adhere to the Protocol of the Treaty Concerning the Permanent Neutrality and Operation of the Panama Canal, a fact never forgotten by the Panamanian people.

During this long and fruitful 48 years of friendship, we have accomplished several agreements between our two countries, leading to more prosperity and well-being for our peoples, and that have brought our nations closer together.

As an example of this, in June 2019, both countries signed the Agreement on Visa Exemption for Holders of Ordinary Passports and the prompt implementation of the Visa Free Agreement that provided free entrance for up to 90 days to Panamanian tourists to Việt Nam and vice versa. By doing this, we became the second country in Latin America to have this type of agreement with Việt Nam. This in turn provided the framework for and increase in the flow of tourists between both sides.

On the economic front, based on statistics of the Vietnamese General Department of Customs under the Ministry of Finance, we have increased our commercial exchange from US$74 million in 2006 to US$435 million in 2022, with the main products that Panama imported from Việt Nam being oil refined products, textiles, computers and electronic accessories, phones, agricultural machinery, coffee, frozen fish and seafood, wood, manufactured wood articles, shoes, plastics and bamboo and rattan products.

On the other hand, we can highlight that earlier this year, Panama exported around 63 tons of fish flour, opening a new market for this type of Panamanian export to this country and the ASEAN region.

Taking into consideration that Việt Nam and the ASEAN region are an important potential market for our products, our government has presented to the National Assembly for approval the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation (TAC) that will provide a legal framework for a closer relationship and commercial cooperation between our nation and the ASEAN region, bearing in mind that this is one of the most important regions in the world in terms economic growth and foreign investment.

This treaty will provide Việt Nam and ASEAN a gateway through Panama to Latin American markets. Panama has in the Colon Free Zone, one of the largest free zones in the region and it is a well-known fact that the connectivity and logistical services that we have developed provide Việt Nam with a formidable platform to export Vietnamese products to the entire American continent. Việt Nam offers Panama access for our products to all ASEAN countries, for example, frozen fish and seafood, gourmet coffees, precious woods, and other products.

The Republic of Panama maintains more than 8,662 registered vessels and added more than 5.9 million Gross Register Tons during the first half of 2023, making it one of the biggest maritime registries in the world. Vietnamese seafarers make up a good number of the crew aboard said vessels and the Panama Maritime Authority, through our consulate in Hồ Chí Minh City makes sure that these seafarers are issued the appropriate certificates to serve on board these ships. It is of the utmost importance for the Panama Maritime Authority that Panamanian flag vessels possess the greatest safety levels and that the crew enjoy excellent working conditions, and that’s what our maritime authorities strive for.

Finally, to our Vietnamese friends, on the occasion of the commemoration of the first 48 years of the establishment of diplomatic relations between our two nations, I would like to thank you in the name of the government and people of the Republic of Panama for all the friendship and cooperation in all fields of human endeavour and wish that it further develops in the years to come. Panama will always stand with Việt Nam as an excellent partner and friend. VNS