PANAMA CITY, June 19 (Xinhua) -- Panama's Deputy Foreign Minister Luis Miguel Hincapie has urged the setting of a diplomatic and political agenda as a next step for the country to boost its fledgling relationship with China, after the two countries established diplomatic relations on June 12.
In a recent interview with Xinhua, Hincapie said the setting of the agenda should include establishment of embassies in each other's capital city, appointment of ambassadors, and beginning to discuss topics such as trade, maritime affairs, tourism, education and cultural exchange.
According to the minister, these steps are particularly urgent to ratify the "correct, sovereign and positive step" taken by Panama, referring to Panama's decision to establish diplomatic relations with the People's Republic of China.
"It was a sovereign decision, taken strategically, which suits us. The benefits will be seen later, when all the agreements and the bilateral relationship are confirmed and established," Hincapie added.
While Panama has not yet sent an ambassador to the People's Republic of China, he guaranteed that this would be done before the end of this year. Hincapie said that Panama would seek to move as quickly as possible in this regard, given China's importance and potential as the second-largest user of the Panama Canal.
The deputy foreign minister said that the possibilities of this new cooperation were "incalculable," especially since Panama could become China's gateway to Latin America, with Chinese companies using it as a logistical platform for this region.
Hincapie pointed out several advantages his country enjoys, including its geographical position and its connectivity with other countries by convenient means of transportation such as airlines, ports and railways.
He recognized that the Panama Canal would be a focal point of China-Panama relations, especially with Chinese firms setting up operations there in the near future.
The first ship to go through the expanded Panama Canal on June 26, 2016 was a Chinese ship named "Cosco Shipping Panama".
"There is already an interest in coming to Panama, and with Chinese ships crossing through Panama, traffic and trade are growing. Beyond having commercial ties with China, the diplomatic relations and formal links open more doors than before," pointed out Hincapie.
Looking further ahead, the deputy minister believes it will have a knock-on effect with China seeing Panama as a tourism destination.
He also highlighted the importance that China has had in Panama's history, beginning with the arrival of Chinese immigrants 163 years ago, who later contributed to Panama's strong economy.