Panama could become part of the Silk Road and globalize it: Tapiero

By Franklin Castrellón

The establishment of diplomatic relations with China could boost Panama’s integration into the scheme of the so-called “Silk Road,” said Panamanian economist Eddie Tapiero, a logistics expert.

While he warned that Latin America is outside the concept of the Chinese plan of “One Strip, One Route”, known as OBOR (One Belt, One Road) which is an expanded version of the ancient Silk Road, Tapiero considers that “its inclusion would not be difficult, especially now that the countries of the region are seeking markets to promote their exports.”

According to the economist, diplomatic relations established with China on June 12, 2017 give the Asian giant “greater legal certainty for its investment, and allow Panama to form an integral part of the “Silk-OBOR Route.” The key to this process would be the Panama Canal, “which plays an important role in maritime trade between Asia, the United States and the rest of the world.”

The new Silk Route.

The new Silk Route.

The Canal and the logistical hub that surrounds it, is a connectivity node that can serve as a starting point for a regional distribution center, both for Central and South America. Tapiero recalled that this position of greater integration of the Central American markets was mentioned in the meeting of the Organization of American States (OAS) held in early 2017.

Another factor that should stimulate this possibility, he emphasized, is the recent approval of the Master Plan for the development of the banks of the Canal. The recent formalization of diplomatic relations with the Asian giant will undoubtedly facilitate its participation in projects aimed at exploiting the enormous potential in the interoceanic region, strengthened with the start of operations of the enlarged Canal on June 26, 2016.

He said that China already has important port investments in the area, which will serve as an incentive to expand its participation. However, Tapiero considered it prudent that Panama first define a State strategy “that is aligned with a long-term national vision, that allows Panama to maximize the benefits that this opportunity offers.”

The logistics expert recalled that China is filling the vacuum left by the protectionist policies that US President Donald Trump is trying to implement.

“Since the World Economic Forum held earlier this year, many countries are looking to China as the new flagship of free trade, environmental protection and the globalized economy,” he said.

On June 20, 2017 China published the “Vision for cooperation under the initiative of OBOR for the development of the Maritime Route of the Silk Road of the XXI Century”. The document defines the principles of sustainable development and respect for the environment for the inclusion of other countries in this initiative.

The Silk Route.

The Silk Road

The Silk Road is the name given in 1877 by the German geographer Ferdinand von Richthofen to a series of roads and sea routes that connected different regions of China with towns and cities of Western Europe, which served the mutual trade, especially the silk textiles from China.

Unlike the forced trade imposed by European monarchs, the Silk Road met the traditional Chinese rigor of promoting exchange in harmony with the environment, promoting the distribution of benefits throughout. “For this reason it can be said that the routes and the commerce that developed along them was accepted by the peoples and not imposed by the emperor in Peking,” explains Tapiero.

The route not only stimulated the exchange of goods, but also impelled a transfer of knowledge at economic, scientific and cultural level. But when the Ottoman Empire extended to Europe, it ended up boycotting trade until finally. In 1453 China closed the Silk Road, ending the contact with the rest of the world for many years until a gradual change began as a sequel to the visit made to Beijing by US president Richard Nixon in 1972 to meet with his Chinese counterpart, Deng Xiaoping.

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