Charleston Sister Cities’ Trade Mission to Panama City

crowd standing in front of george washington painting

This week, Charleston Sister Cities International (CSCI) in partnership with the South Carolina Department of Commerce (SCDOC) reported that their recent trade mission to Panama City, Panama was a success. As a result of the Trade Mission visit this past October, business opportunities ranging from biomedical to agricultural were identified and are in various stages of negotiations.

Economic development projects between Sister Cities are one of the most exciting ways for cities to connect. In addition to a positive impact on the local economy, these partnerships generate increased travel between cities and illuminate similarities and shared interests between residents. These dividends extend to benefit wider populations because they create stable ties and the potential for lasting peace.

In July, Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg announced plans for the trade mission with its Sister City Panama City, Panama. The trade mission was organized in two tracks, one led by Neita A. Wiese, President & CEO, Charleston Sister Cities International; and the other by Anita Patel, Trade Program Manager, South Carolina Department of Commerce. Charleston Sister Cities International facilitated business meetings and events designed to provide an economic and logistics overview and to introduce Panamanian business and government leaders to trade mission participants.

Two of the South Carolina companies participating as part of the South Carolina Department of Commerce track returned from the trade mission with plans to do business in Panama. Mr. Chad Brubaker of Innovative Poultry Products said,

“The joint effort between the SCDOC and Charleston Sister Cities International Panama Trade Mission was a very productive experience for our company. The contacts and meetings were strategically scheduled which made the trip a business success.”

Arthur V. Martin, Ph.D, President of Global Infection Control Consultants LLC, remarked

“Everything organized by CSCI including a seminar by the Panama Ministry of Commerce and Industry, to a site visit of the Panama Canal was well worth the experience and add to what SCDOC organized to make what I call a total package.”

Both tracks of the trade mission attended presentations by the Republic of Panama’s Ministry of Commerce and Industry, featuring an overview of Panama’s trade, logistics and infrastructure. They also toured Panama Pacifica, a vast high security logistics and distribution center that include a private commercial airport with key tenets such as Dell and DHL. Julius H. Hines, K&L Gates, LLP, provided a brief presentation of Charleston, it’s port, and distribution and logistics capabilities, stated,

“In addition to being a major crossroads of international shipping, Panama has a vibrant economy and culture, both of which offer great partnering opportunities for Charleston.”

CSCI track participants met the Ministry of Agriculture and the Panama Specialty Coffee Association. CSCI Board Member, CSCI track sponsor, and former South Carolina Sate Representative Harry B. “Chip” Limehouse discussed potential agricultural export and import opportunities between Panama, the Charleston metro area and the state of South Carolina.

On behalf of Panama City Mayor Jose Blandon, Vice Mayor Raisa Bandfield hosted an evening reception for all trade mission participants at the recently restored Casa Municipalidad in historic Casco Antiua. Guests included Panama business and government leaders, among them Alberto Aleman Zubieta, former administrator of the Panama Canal Authority and keynote speaker at the 2012 and 2013 South Carolina International Trade Conference. Staff with the United States Embassy and U.S. Commercial Services in Panama also attended.

Trade mission participants had a complimentary tour of the Panama Canal Miraflores Locks and visited the Panama Canal Pilots Association Building in Ancon. Panama Canal Administrator Jorge L. Quijano arranged for a private tour to the historic rotunda museum of the former Canal Zone Panama Canal Administration Building in Ancon. Now the headquarters of the Panama Canal Authority, the rotunda’s murals reflect the challenging construction of the Canal’s Gaillard Cut, which was led by South Carolina native son and U.S. Army Corps of Engineer David DuBose Gaillard. A tour and visit to the Panama Canal Pilots Association was attended by CSCI track sponsors K&L Gates, LLP and The Charleston Branch Pilots Association representing shared objectives between the two nations in international law and maritime commerce. Julius H. Hines K&L Gates stated,

“In addition to being a crossroads of international shipping, Panama has a vibrant economy and culture, both of which offer great partnering opportunities for Charleston.”

Economic Partnerships continue to be a vital avenue for cooperation between the geographically distant populations of Sister Cities and represent important opportunities to define the bonds which create a more peaceful world.