BEIJING Dec 2 A large Chinese business
delegation has arrived in the Central American country of
Panama, a diplomatic ally of self-ruled Taiwan, and is keen to
invest in energy and port projects, state news agency Xinhua
said on Friday.
Panama is one of just 22 countries to maintain formal
diplomatic ties with Taiwan. China claims Taiwan as a wayward
province and says it has no right to diplomatic relations with
The 35 Chinese entrepreneurs, lead by Zhang Wei, vice
president of the China Council for the Promotion of
International Trade, arrived in Panama this week, Xinhua said.
The delegates mainly come from the telecommunications,
banking and construction sectors and "expressed a particular
interest in investing in the energy and port sectors", it added.
"During a meeting with the Chinese business delegation,
Nestor Gonzales, Panama's vice minister of foreign trade, said
that his government is seeking to get closer to China," it said.
China views Panama as a potential base for manufacturing
plants, said Wang Weihua, permanent representative of China's
Office of Commercial Development in Panama, Beijing's de facto
"Panama is already acting as a bridge, a window to transit
Chinese merchandise to Latin America," he told Xinhua. "I think
that, given Panama's logistical development, this role will
increase, and will be enjoyed by more Chinese companies."
In June, Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen visited Panama for
the formal opening of the expanded Panama Canal, her first
overseas trip since winning a January election, and sought to
consolidate ties with Panama.
China is deeply suspicious of Tsai, who it suspects of
wanting to push the island's formal independence, and has
severed a regular communications mechanism established under
Taiwan's previous government.
Panama is one of Taiwan's oldest diplomatic allies, but
diplomats in Beijing have told Reuters they believe Panama is
the most likely Central American nation to ditch Taiwan next.
Costa Rica recognised Beijing in 2007, and a U.S. State
Department cable released by Wikileaks indicates that Panama
sought to recognise Beijing in 2009, but was rebuffed.
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)