By Peter Tase
Caribbean News Now contributor
PANAMA CITY, Panama -- In 2013, Panama and Paraguay are celebrating twenty years of bilateral cooperation, which has been significantly strengthened and intensified, especially in the last five years.
Paraguay’s friendly relations with Panama have produced tangible results such as, among others, COPA’s direct flights between Asuncion and Panama City, thanks to an agreement signed by both governments in 2007.
Panamanian police officers have received training from Paraguay’s elite police forces and military training academy.
Paraguayan authorities are highly active and constantly share valuable information and expertise with their Panamanian counterparts, especially in areas such as: hydroelectric production and its latest applied technology, bilingual training programs for the armed forces, assistance in improving performance of public health projects, education reform as well as the implementation of the best farming practices and assistance.
On the other hand, Panama City shares its successful and long experience with Asuncion, particularly in the shipment and cargo management, port administration, treatment of tropical disease, financial systems reform, and social housing programs.
The bilateral cooperation program, for the next two years, was determined at the bilateral technical commission quarterly meeting held in Panama City, at the end of August, 2012. Both countries enjoy excellent collaboration on the following areas: judicial cooperation, legal assistance in trans-border crime, transfer of criminals between both countries, abolition of visa requirements and restitution of stolen cultural property.
In late 2012, the ministries of Panama and Paraguay signed a bilateral agreement that would further stimulate and promote bilateral trade.
Paraguayan diplomats and national security officers are actively negotiating a bilateral agreement with Panamanian colleagues that would make a more effective war against regional drug smuggling cartels, related organised crime and money laundering.
The extensive partnership and cooperation between Asuncion and Panama City, is additionally based in another important pillar: that of bilateral trade exchange.
In 2010, the amount of Paraguay's exported products to Panama doubled, totalling more than US$13.7 million compared to the previous year, which amounted to only US$6 million. In 2011, Paraguayan exports reached a monetary value of more than US$6.8 million and imported products from Panama totalled US$3.9 million.
Bilateral trade relations have been predominantly in favour of Paraguay, even though the latter is a land-locked nation. There are great opportunities for both countries to rekindle their respective strategies towards maximizing the use of Paraguay's wealth of natural resources and Panama's favorable geographic position, such characteristics that would immensely help and reinvigorate the economies of both nations.