Panama flag Panama: Economic and Political Overview

Foreign trade figures of Panama

Foreign Trade in Figures

Panama is mainly export-oriented and highly dependent on trade, which represents 87% of GDP (World Bank, latest data available). The country also has one of the largest trading fleets in the world. In 2022, copper and banana exports emerged as the primary export leaders, comprising 76.6% and 3.5% of the total, respectively. Following closely were frozen shrimp exports at 1.6%, crude palm oil at 1.4%, and medicines at 1.3%. The top imports included petroleum oils (20.8%), motor vehicles (4.9%), medicaments (4.2%), petroleum gas (1.8%), telephone sets (1.4%), and maize (1.3% - data Comtrade).

In 2022, the country’s main export partners were China (32.7%), Japan (15.0%), South Korea (7.4%), India (6.5%), Germany (6.4%), and Spain (4.3%), whereas imports came chiefly from the United States (24.2%), China (10.8%), Mexico (4.3%), Costa Rica (3.3%), and Colombia (3% - data Comtrade). The expansion of the canal has more than doubled its capacity, allowing it to accommodate vessels that were originally too wide with the United States and China being the first users of this vessel type. The country has trade agreements with the United States, Mexico, Peru, Canada, Chile, Singapore, Taiwan, and Israel. Panama is also a member of the "Central American Integration System" (or SICA), a regional institution whose main purpose is to promote integration between Central American countries, fostering security, freedom, democracy, and social development within the region. Additionally, Panama is also one of the countries in the Central America-EFTA agreement, as well as the Central America-EU agreement.

According to the last available data from WTO, Panama imported USD 29.2 million worth of goods and USD 5.9 million in services in 2021. Over the same period, the country exported USD 15.2 billion in goods and USD 15.9 million in services. Between January and July 2023, Panama reached its highest export earnings in a seven-month period, totaling USD 2.36 billion. A substantial amount, USD 1.65 billion, stemmed from copper exports. In contrast to the corresponding period in 2022, total exports have increased by 10.7%, reflecting robust economic expansion across diverse sectors (data Ministry of Commerce and Industries).

 
Foreign Trade Values 20192020202120222023
Imports of Goods (million USD) 21,49214,74020,59629,24935,095
Exports of Goods (million USD) 11,3189,48313,16115,27815,713
Imports of Services (million USD) 5,1133,2134,1445,5515,727
Exports of Services (million USD) 13,7348,19210,64815,29718,032

Source: World Trade Organisation (WTO) ; Latest available data

Foreign Trade Indicators 20182019202020212022
Trade Balance (million USD) -9,207-7,532-2,802-3,591-9,299
Trade Balance (Including Service) (million USD) -8691,0892,1782,914453

Source: World Bank ; Latest available data

Foreign Trade Forecasts 20232024 (e)2025 (e)2026 (e)2027 (e)
Volume of exports of goods and services (Annual % change) 7.27.45.64.24.3
Volume of imports of goods and services (Annual % change) 2.211.55.74.65.2

Source: IMF, World Economic Outlook ; Latest available data

Note: (e) Estimated Data

 
International Economic Cooperation
Panama joined the WTO in 1997. It made a free-exchange agreement with Taiwan (2004), Salvador (2003) and Canada (2009) on the elimination of tariffs in sectors of industry, agriculture, forestry and fishing. The country is currently negotiating with the United States. Panama has also shown interest in negotiating with MERCOSUR and has been invited to join the G3 (which unites Venezuela, Colombia and Mexico). Finally, Panama signed a Free Trade Agreement with Canada.
 

Main Partner Countries

Main Customers
(% of Exports)
2022
China 32.7%
Japan 15.0%
South Korea 7.4%
India 6.5%
Germany 6.4%
See More Countries 32.0%
Main Suppliers
(% of Imports)
2022
United States 24.2%
China 10.8%
Mexico 4.3%
Costa Rica 3.3%
Colombia 3.0%
See More Countries 54.4%

Source: Comtrade, 2023. Because of rounding, the sum of the percentages may be smaller/greater than 100%.

 
 

Main Products

3.7 bn USD of products exported in 2022
Copper ores and concentratesCopper ores and concentrates 76.6%
Bananas, incl. plantains, fresh or driedBananas, incl. plantains, fresh or dried 3.5%
Crustaceans, whether in shell or not, live, fresh,...Crustaceans, whether in shell or not, live, fresh, chilled, frozen, dried, salted or in brine, even smoked, incl. crustaceans in shell cooked by steaming or by boiling in water; flours, meals and pellets of crustaceans, fit for human consumption 1.9%
Palm oil and its fractions, whether or not refined...Palm oil and its fractions, whether or not refined (excl. chemically modified) 1.4%
Ferrous waste and scrap; remelting scrap ingots of...Ferrous waste and scrap; remelting scrap ingots of iron or steel (excl. slag, scale and other waste from the production of iron or steel; radioactive waste and scrap; fragments of pigs, blocks or other primary forms of pig iron or spiegeleisen) 1.4%
See More Products 15.3%
15.2 bn USD of products imported in 2022
Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous...Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous minerals (excl. crude); preparations containing >= 70% by weight of petroleum oils or of oils obtained from bituminous minerals, these oils being the basic constituents of the preparations, n.e.s.; waste oils containing mainly petroleum or bituminous minerals 20.8%
Motor cars and other motor vehicles principally...Motor cars and other motor vehicles principally designed for the transport of persons, incl. station wagons and racing cars (excl. motor vehicles of heading 8702) 4.9%
Medicaments consisting of mixed or unmixed...Medicaments consisting of mixed or unmixed products for therapeutic or prophylactic uses, put up in measured doses "incl. those in the form of transdermal administration" or in forms or packings for retail sale (excl. goods of heading 3002, 3005 or 3006) 4.2%
Petroleum gas and other gaseous hydrocarbonsPetroleum gas and other gaseous hydrocarbons 1.8%
Telephone sets, incl. telephones for cellular...Telephone sets, incl. telephones for cellular networks or for other wireless networks; other apparatus for the transmission or reception of voice, images or other data, incl. apparatus for communication in a wired or wireless network [such as a local or wide area network]; parts thereof (excl. than transmission or reception apparatus of heading 8443, 8525, 8527 or 8528) 1.4%
See More Products 66.9%

Source: Comtrade, 2023. Because of rounding, the sum of the percentages may be smaller/greater than 100%.

 
 

To go further, check out our service Import-Export Flows.

 

Main Services

Source: United Nations Statistics Division, 2023. Because of rounding, the sum of the percentages may be smaller/greater than 100%.

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Latest Update: May 2024