Colombian businessmen have pointed out the damage caused to their business dealings with Panama by the respective governments inability to resolve continuing conflicts over the sharing of financial information and tariff policy.
Representatives from the Colombian Chamber of Commerce - Panama stressed the importance of Panama not only as a financial center but as a destination for its exports and investments, and urged government authorities to more quickly resolve the differences on issues of tariff policy and exchange of financial information. Currently the two countries are in the midst of a conflict over the charging of a tariff imposed by Colombia on footwear, textiles and clothing from the Colon Free Zone.
The government has announced that it will not ratify the trade agreement until the conflict caused by the tariff of 5% added to textiles and footwear coming from the Colon Free Zone is resolved.
Meliton Arrocha, Minister of Commerce and Industry of Panama, announced that the measure has already been communicated to the Colombian government, to whom there was was a call made for dialogue under international trade rules in order to resolve the existing trade disputes.
The Minister of Commerce and Industry said that although Colombia is maintaining its excess tariffs on the CFZ, the FTA between the two countries is moving ahead.
"After starting negotiations for a free trade agreement (FTA) with Colombia, without having dealt with the request from businesses in the CFZ, the goal now is to raise a complaint with the World Trade Organization (WTO) in order to mitigate the effect of the Colombian excess tariffs", reported Prensa.com.
Colombia will continue to apply extra tariffs on re-exports coming from the CFZ for products which do not have certificates of origin and value-added processing.
After signing the agreement with Colombia, "We do not know how the [issue with] the CFZ ended up. There is a vacuum of information that we do not understand and I fear the worst. The silence, can be taken as a case of "no news is bad news", said Surse Pierpoint, president of the Association of Users of the Colon Free Zone.
Both nations failed to resolve issues such as the treatment of products in the Colon Free Zone, which means there will probably have to be an eighth round of negotiations.
"... The round that lasted for four days, dealt with technical issues such as trade and rules of origin procedures, access to markets for agricultural lists and issues related to customs administration and trade facilitation", reports Prensa.com.
Colombia's government is studying the possibility of applying a reduction to the fees charged for goods coming from the Colon Free Zone.
According to Ricardo Quijano, Minister of Commerce and Industry of Panama, this relief is an option being proposed by Colombia during the meeting held in recent days with his Colombian counterpart, Sergio Diaz-Granados, in the city of Bogota, in order to seek an early resolution to this situation which affects the Colon Free Zone (CFZ).
The lack of agreement in the sixth round of negotiations shows how difficult it will be, especially in terms of exports from the Colon Free Zone.
The sixth round of negotiations for a Free Trade Agreement between Panama and Colombia in Medellin, closed last Friday without any agreement being reached, therefore each country will now consider the proposals line by line and take its position to the next round be held in late May in Panama.
The Free Zone, meat, coffee and milk are the most controversial topics in the sixth round of negotiations for a Free Trade Agreement between Colombia and Panama.
According to Luis Germán Gómez, vice president of the Association of Members of the Colon Free Zone, Panama is maintaining its position that Colombia should lift restrictions on the entry of goods from the zone.
ATS El Salvador is a Customs Agency with 26 years of providing services for imports, exports, transits, consultancies and international transport.
Operates in El Salvador
Phone: (503) 2235 6522 - (503) 2235 6524