A road to connect the Colon Free Zone with Enrique Jimenez airport, and the union of the areas of France Field and Cocosolito in one single customs post are planned for 2017.
In the case of the creation of a single customs post between France and Cocosolito Field, the aim of the authorities at the Colon Free Zone is"... ' to create a primary customs area with Randolph Road ...that would allow the free flow of intra-zone cargo'," said Pierpoint Surse to Prensa.com.
Employers of the Colon Free Zone disagree with the audit carried out by the management, which using a new methodology determined that the debt is $41 million and not $530 million.
Surse Pierpoint, Manager of the Colon Free Zone, said the audit was carried out because"... there was a lot of skepticism from Venezuela over the figure", reported Prensa.com. However, Panamanian businessmen of the Association of Users of the CFZ, doubt this new figure, claiming that it "does not represent the real debt".
Free Zone users require another type of measures on top of the proposals the government has discussed in the Assembly, such as reducing the charges for renting.
The bill that was discussed in Congress and which seeks to increase the competitiveness of the Colon Free Zone (CFZ), (already approved in the first debate) is not enough for entrepreneurs. Marco Tellez, president of the Association of Users (AU), told Prensa.com that "... users recognize the efforts of the Government in the proposal already presented, but they are not enough. We do not want companies to make money, we want to stay. "
The reopening of trade between the US and Cuba, one of the main destinations of re-exports of the Colon Free Zone, could further aggravate their problems.
Once trade has been fully restored between Cuba and the United States, the Colon Free Zone (CFZ) will have to intensify its search for new markets, as Cuban entrepreneurs will have the ability to import directly from the US, without intermediation as is currently done through the Colon Free Zone.
Negotiations are being promoted with the US chain for the installation of a distribution center for Latin America in the Colon Free Zone.
Panama reserves supermarket operations for local companies, so there could be confusion over the news report from Prensa.com, which states that "... Through a letter signed by Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela, a group of businessmen, headed by the general manager of the Colon Free Zone (CFZ), Surse Pierpoint- are seeking to attract the attention of executives at Walmart US to install a distribution center for Latin America in Panama ", indicating the Colon Free Zone (CFZ) as 'the right place'."
The two governments have agreed to establish working groups in order to negotiate the payment of Venezuela's debts with companies in the Colon Free Zone and Copa Airlines.
Deputy Minister of Foreign Trade, Nestor Gonzalez, will manage the working group that will attend to the subject of outstanding debts to Copa Airlines, while Surse Pierpoint will attend to the issue of settlements for companies established in the Colon Free Zone .
Administrators of the Colon Free Zone are promoting its re-exportation services through business appointments with companies other than those in traditional markets.
In order to mitigate the effects of trade restrictions imposed by Colombia and losses from the drop in business with Venezuela, major customers of the Colon Free Zone (CFZ), authorities are changing strategy in order to attract companies from other markets, such as South America.
The Colon City Council has repealed a 1953 rule which exempted companies that provide services in the CFZ from paying taxes.
Colon City Council passed a bill that repeals another approved in 1953 that exempts from tax services performed by companies in the Colon Free Zone (CFZ). Companies that offer services such as banks, law firms, messaging, restaurants, cleaning, consultancy and others, will be obliged to pay taxes.
Additional provisions by banks for loans to companies in the CFZ are a "medicine worse than the disease."
The Association of Users of the Colon Free Zone (AU) fears that the bank contingency measures, ordered last week by the Superintendency of Banks of Panama (SBP), will limit bank lending to companies in the CFZ.
Following the meeting of President Martinelli with his Venezuelan counterpart Nicolas Maduro, doubts remain about when the debt will be settled.
It's been two weeks since the Panamanian president, Ricardo Martinelli, visited his Venezuelan counterpart Nicolas Maduro, in order to find a solution to the problem of the debt owed by Venezuelan entrepreneurs to the Colon Free Zone (CFZ). However, members of the association of users have yet to receive an official report on what was negotiated. Nor do they know how the bilateral economic commission which will address the debt problem, will work.
Restrictions faced by Venezuelan businessmen in obtaining dollars are causing delays in paying imports from the Colon Free Zone.
"I will travel to Venezuela on Monday," said Ricardo Martinelli, who said he hopes to have "a direct frank and sincere conversation, with President (Nicolas) Maduro". The president will travel with several Panamanian businessmen to the country to find a way to facilitate the prompt payment of debst to the businesses in the CFZ.
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.
The process began with a request on the part of Panama for consultations with Colombia over the fixed excess tariffs on imports of textiles and footwear originating in certain countries.
This tax directly affects the Colon Free Zone (CFZ), which imports products mainly from Asia for reexport to the region, with Puerto Rico, Venezuela and Colombia being the major destinations. "The process, which the World Trade Organization (WTO) has been notified about, could result in a complaint to the agency that enforces trade agreements", 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.
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