Panama – China’s newest ally – sends security and trade envoys to Beijing for talks

PUBLISHED : Monday, 07 August, 2017, 3:32pm
UPDATED : Monday, 07 August, 2017, 11:03pm

Panama’s government will send a delegation of senior security and trade officials to China for talks beginning on Tuesday, the first such diplomatic mission since the two nations established relations nearly two months ago.

Panama’s information ministry said on Sunday that its envoys would meet Public Security Minister Guo Shengkun, and other senior Beijing security and migration officials.

Trade talks would be held with the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade to boost bilateral trade as well as promote “Panama as a regional headquarters for Chinese banks [and] companies”.

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In June, Panama broke with self-ruled Taiwan and established diplomatic ties with Beijing, the second most important customer of its key shipping canal.

Beijing and Taipei have tried to poach each other’s allies over the years, often dangling generous aid packages in front of developing nations, although Taipei struggles to compete with an increasingly powerful Beijing.

The number of countries that still maintain ties with the island has shrunk to about 20, mostly smaller and poorer nations in Latin America and the Pacific.

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Beijing, deeply suspicious of Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen and her independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party, has stepped up efforts to isolate Taiwan since she took office last year.

African nations São Tomé and Príncipe and Gambia announced they would sever relations with Taiwan last year.

Beijing’s ties with Panama boost China’s presence in Central America, the United States’ backyard.

China is trying to woo the region with energy and infrastructure deals just as the US is retreating from initiatives such as a trans-Pacific trade pact linking countries from Chile, Mexico and Peru to Australia, Singapore and Vietnam. US President Donald Trump has also pledged to deport illegal migrants from Latin America.