With bilateral relations first established in 1903, Panama has had a long, and at times complicated, history with the United States. However, today our two nations find themselves aligned on some of the most important issues of our time, including building a more sustainable and equitable world for future generations. Panama’s favorable geographic location, linking Central America, North America and South America, has also made it a geostrategic logistics hub for the United States – and the globe – for decades. More than 60 percent of goods transiting the Panama Canal originate or are destined for U.S. markets, serving as a supply chain umbilical for small and large businesses alike.
President Joe Biden has long recognized the influence Panama holds in the Americas, noting when the canal was expanded in 2013 that it would have a “profound effect on the economy” of the United States and provide “a service not only to the Panamanian people, but the United States, the hemisphere and the entire world.” These words only ring truer today as Panama strives to keep the supply of goods and critical aid alive as we navigate the challenges imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
But our countries’ relationship goes beyond just trade and logistics: Panama and the United States today have critical common interests spanning the areas of human rights, biodiversity and social development initiatives — including gender equality, on which Panama is determined to play a leading role. Through our recent bilateral meetings with the new Biden administration, we have expressed our intention to continue the relationship built over decades — one based on transparency and trust.
Panama is particularly pleased with the United States’ return to the World Health Organization as we battle the most devastating global pandemic in modern history. In addition, Biden’s re-engagement with climate policy through the Paris Agreement on Climate Change and his upcoming climate summit provides a unified front to combat the environmental, social and political challenges posed by global warming. Panama hopes to share its success and best practices with the United States on this front. And these are not hollow words.
Recently, Panama has transitioned to an emissions-based target, with a goal of reducing 11.5 percent in greenhouse gas emissions from the energy sector by 2030, and 24 percent by 2050. We have also curbed the emissions of 13 million tons of CO2 in 2020 alone through the use of the Panama Canal, making it both a powerful trade route and climate protection tool. The country is also introducing new efforts to reduce inequality and poverty while enhancing a green economic recovery, and we have highlighted this sustainability focus to the Biden administration in our ongoing discussions.
To continue accelerating progress, in Panama, the United States and beyond, we cannot work alone. Just recently we had the opportunity to co-host an event titled “Public-Private Dialogue Between the U.S. and Central America on Correspondent Banking.” Together we reflected on our shared values and commitment to improving international best practices surrounding the prevention of money laundering, terrorist financing and other deceptive practices, which has been a main priority of Panama’s for several years now.
These are areas we have prioritized and, since 2015, we have successfully implemented actions aimed at fighting tax evasion, as well as improving the coherence of international tax regulations and the search for a more transparent international tax system. These actions have resulted in new sanctions imposed on banks, real estate companies and resident agents. We are committed to preserving the integrity of our financial platform, with over 90 registered banks and total assets close to 90 billion dollars, enhancing transparency and the rule of law.
Of course, more still needs to be done and challenges lie ahead, but Panama’s government remains committed to continuing its path of strengthening the country’s perception in the international arena as a reliable and safe jurisdiction. In that regard, Panama has been successfully exchanging information on foreign financial accounts maintained by U.S. taxpayers for more than three years and has reported on financial accounts information, complying with all confidentiality requirements.
We believe in the role of international organizations to promote dialogue and consensus. To this end, we will stand united to the rule of law and the principles of democracy which have been cornerstones of our two republics. Together our two countries can pave the way toward a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable future for generations to come.
Erika Mouynes is Panama’s minister of foreign affairs.
Morning Consult welcomes op-ed submissions on policy, politics and business strategy in our coverage areas. Updated submission guidelines can be found here.