efe-epaPanama

The Chinese President arrived in Panama on Sunday, for a historic official visit to consolidate the bilateral diplomatic ties established in June 2017 and to sign a dozen agreements with the government of his Panamanian counterpart.

Xi Jinping and his wife, Peng Liyuan, arrived on an Air China plane at Tocumen International Airport, where they were received with honors by President Juan Carlos Varela and his wife and first lady, Lorena Castillo.

Xi is the first Chinese president to visit Panama. Both countries have signed more than twenty agreements, since they established diplomatic relations, are negotiating a free trade agreement and now study the possibility of building a bullet train for an estimated cost of $5 billion.

Varela already officially visited China in Nov. 2017, and during that time many bilateral agreements were signed for economic, diplomatic, cultural and educational matters, among others.

The Panamanian president stressed this week that the new status of the relationship with China will "greatly improve" the presence of Chinese companies, increase foreign investment and strengthen the regional role played by Panama as a logistics hub.

In a letter published by the Panamanian newspaper La Estrella, Xi expressed his "great expectation" for the future of relations with Panama, a country with extensive commercial links with the Asian giant.

China is the second-largest user of the Panama Canal, through which 6 percent of world trade passes, the largest source of goods for the Colon Free Trade Zone which is the largest on the continent, and the third largest destination of Panamanian exports worth more than $42 million last year, according to government statistics.

Xi's official agenda in Panama, which will take place on Monday, includes meetings with Varela and his ministers, the signing of at least 14 cooperation agreements, a meeting with businessmen, and a tour of the Panama Canal's new Cocoli Locks.

Panama has deployed an impressive security presence for the Chinese president, which includes 2,500 policemen and the total closure of the avenues through which the Chinese president will travel, as well as the luxurious hotel on the shores of the Pacific in which he will stay.