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 83.2% of GDP. The country also has the largest trading fleet in the world, with 16% of the global fleet carrying capacity being registered in Panama. The free zone of Colón is the second largest free zone in the world after Hong Kong, demonstrating the country’s openness to foreign trade. Panama mainly exports medicaments (14.6%), oxygen-function amino-compounds (5.6%), sulphonamides (4.5%), electrical apparatus for line telephony (4.3%), and perfumes (3.5%), while its top imports include petroleum oils (8.6%), medicaments (6.7%), motor vehicles (3.9%), oxygen-function amino-compounds (3.4%), and electrical apparatus for line telephony (2.7%). According to IMF Foreign Trade Forecasts, the volume of exports of goods and services decreased by 14.7% in 2020 and is expected to increase by 17.1% in 2021, while the volume of imports of goods and services decreased by 17.4% in 2020 and is expected to increase by 17.6% in 2021.

The country’s partners are the United States, China, Colombia, Singapore, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Mexico, and South Korea. 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 14.7 million worth of goods and USD 3 million in services in 2020. Over the same period, the country exported USD 9.4 million in goods and USD 8.5 million in services. As a result, when only accounting for goods, Panama had a trade deficit of USD 2.7 million. However, the country registered an overall trade balance (including services) of USD 2.7 million in 2020.

 
Foreign Trade Values 20172018201920202021
Imports of Goods (million USD) 21,93923,00621,49214,74020,596
Exports of Goods (million USD) 11,09311,48011,3189,48313,161
Imports of Services (million USD) 4,6524,8285,0013,0094,263
Exports of Services (million USD) 13,30313,67813,8178,50210,745

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

Foreign Trade Indicators 20162017201820192020
Foreign Trade (in % of GDP) 87.487.489.784.2n/a
Trade Balance (million USD) -7,761-8,469-9,207-7,608-2,714
Trade Balance (Including Service) (million USD) -267202-3511,2012,772
Imports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change) -4.84.50.00.0n/a
Exports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change) -4.35.80.00.0n/a
Imports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 45.445.647.043.4n/a
Exports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 42.041.842.740.7n/a

Source: World Bank ; Latest available data

Foreign Trade Forecasts 2022 (e)2023 (e)2024 (e)2025 (e)2026 (e)
Volume of exports of goods and services (Annual % change) 5.76.17.86.96.4
Volume of imports of goods and services (Annual % change) 1.71.910.17.67.3

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)
2021
China 31.7%
Japan 13.2%
South Korea 10.2%
Spain 8.7%
India 5.1%
See More Countries 31.2%
Main Suppliers
(% of Imports)
2021
United States 25.5%
China 11.9%
Mexico 4.9%
Costa Rica 4.0%
Colombia 3.2%
See More Countries 50.5%

Source: Comtrade, 2022. Because of rounding, the sum of the percentages may be smaller/greater than 100%.

 
 

Main Products

3.8 bn USD of products exported in 2021
Copper ores and concentratesCopper ores and concentrates 77.5%
Bananas, incl. plantains, fresh or driedBananas, incl. plantains, fresh or dried 4.6%
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%
Fish, fresh or chilled (excl. fish fillets and...Fish, fresh or chilled (excl. fish fillets and other fish meat of heading 0304) 1.3%
Palm oil and its fractions, whether or not refined...Palm oil and its fractions, whether or not refined (excl. chemically modified) 1.3%
See More Products 13.9%
13.3 bn USD of products imported in 2021
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 14.5%
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) 5.3%
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) 4.9%
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) 1.8%
Maize or cornMaize or corn 1.5%
See More Products 71.9%

Source: Comtrade, 2022. 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, 2022. Because of rounding, the sum of the percentages may be smaller/greater than 100%.

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Latest Update: November 2022