PANANA CITY, Panama – During a trade mission to the fastest growing economy in Central America, Gov. Jay Nixon today announced the State of Missouri has signed a $200 million bi-lateral trade agreement with the Republic of Panama.
The agreement, witnessed by Gov. Nixon and Vice Minister Nestor Gonzalez of Panama’s Ministry of Commerce & Industries, was signed by Ms. Marisela Gonzalez, Deputy Director, PROINVEX Panama, and Missouri’s Director of Economic Development, Mike Downing. PROINVEX Panama is the nation’s foreign trade and investment agency. Under the agreement, Missouri and Panama agree to trade a combined $200 million worth of goods over the next five years.
“This $200 million agreement with Panama is further evidence that our focus on emerging economies can expand Missouri’s exports around the world, grow our economy and create good, family-supporting jobs in the Show-Me State,” Gov. Nixon. “Latin American nations like Panama, along with Columbia and Peru, represent strong growth opportunities for Missouri businesses and my administration is determined to seek out every opportunity to expand trade, investment and Missouri jobs.”
Yesterday, the Governor met with Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela and other top government officials, as well as with business leaders. Panama was Missouri’s 49th largest trading partner in 2014, receiving more than $22.5 million in Missouri goods and commodities and is projected to be Central America’s fastest-growing economy this year. The largest categories of Missouri products exported to Panama were machinery, electrical equipment and appliances, and food products.
Later today, the Governor and the Missouri delegation will also tour the Panama Canal’s Miraflores Locks, and be briefed on the Panama Canal expansion. The historic expansion of the century-old canal, which is adding an additional lane of traffic and the ability to accommodate even larger ocean-going ships and is expected to be completed by this summer, will benefit Missouri and other exporters of bulk commodities, such as agricultural goods. The larger ships are expected to result in freight rate savings, especially for grain shipments from the U.S. Gulf of Mexico to Asia.
“The canal’s expanded traffic capacity, as well as the ability to accommodate ships carrying as much as three times the cargo as those currently traveling the canal, will reduce the cost and the travel time to move Missouri exports around the globe,” Gov. Nixon said. “I look forward to learning more about this tremendous opportunity for Missouri producers and manufacturers.”
In addition to trade discussions, yesterday, Gov. Nixon and Major General Stephen Danner, adjutant general of the Missouri National Guard, took part in a ceremony marking the 20th anniversary of the Missouri National Guard State Partnership Program with Panama. The partnership program, which pairs U.S. state National Guards with other nations around the globe, has led to joint training, including in the areas of disaster relief, humanitarian assistance and hazardous materials emergency response, between Missouri and Panama. The program has also built roads, bridges, schools, medical clinics and water purification systems in Panama and helped forge humanitarian efforts between private, non-governmental organizations in Missouri and Panama.
Last August, Missouri was awarded a competitive grant of $599,000 from the U.S. Small Business Administration to increase the number of Missouri small businesses that export their products, especially to emerging markets. The funding from the State Trade and Export Promotion (STEP) Grant Program focuses on helping incentivize Missouri businesses to focus their exporting targets on Panama, Colombia and Peru. From Jan. 30 to Feb. 5, Gov. Nixon led a delegation to Colombia and Peru, meeting with top government officials and business leaders. The trade mission was highlighted by the signing of a $750 million bi-lateral export agreement with Colombia and a $300 million bi-lateral export deal with Peru.
Also joining Gov. Nixon as part of the delegation to Panama are First Lady Georganne Nixon; Richard Fordyce, Director of the Missouri Department of Agriculture; and Lane Roberts, Director of the Missouri Department of Public Safety.
The delegation arrived in Panama City on Wednesday, March 2 and is set to return to the United States tomorrow, March 5. Travel costs for Governor and Mrs. Nixon will be covered by the Hawthorn Foundation; state taxpayer funds will not be used.
Gov. Nixon has made creating opportunities for Missouri businesses to sell their products around the globe and promoting Missouri as an ideal location for investment by foreign companies a top economic development priority for his administration. The Governor has led successful trade missions to China (October 2011); Brazil (April 2012); the Republic of China (Taiwan) and the Republic of Korea (March 2013); Western Europe (June 2014, March 2015 and June 2015); Eastern Canada (March 2014); Western Canada (August 2015); and Columbia and Peru (February 2016).
In addition, a Missouri delegation led by the First Lady traveled to Cuba in March 2015 on a historic trade mission to further the sale of Missouri agricultural products. The Missouri team was the first U.S. state trade delegation to visit Cuba since the announcement by President Obama in December 2014 that the U.S. was working to normalize diplomatic relations with Cuba.