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Get to Know Panama

International trade success is not only about you and your customers. Learn business facts about the countries that you trade with and familiarize yourself with the different business practices, cultures, customs and economics.

At a Glance

Panama covers an area of 30,193 square miles (78,200 square kilometers). The country has a population of 3.3 million people and a workforce of 1.4 million, which means roughly 43% of the country's entire population is in the workforce. Despite that fact, the country has an unemployment rate of 7%, and 26% of Panamanians live below the poverty line.

While Spanish is the official language, 14% of Panamanians are native English speakers, according to the U.S. Department of State, which reports, many Panamanians have a working knowledge of English and many professional college-educated Panamanians in Panama City are bilingual.

Financial Facts
  • Panama's estimated 2010 GDP was $27.2 billion, or $12,700 per capita
  • An estimated real growth rate of 7.5% over 2009
  • Services generate 67% of the GDP through such sources as finance, insurance, health and medical, transportation, telecommunications, the Canal and maritime services, tourism, the Colon Free Zone, public administration, and general commerce

Panama is home to the Colon Free Zone, the world’s second-largest free trade zone (after Hong Kong), which is located at the Caribbean entry point to the Panama Canal. The Canal and the Colon Free Zone are the focal points of much of the country’s international trade activity. According to the Federation of International Trade Associations, 12% of the country’s GDP is generated by the Panama Canal, which is being expanded to include a third set of locks.

Perhaps you’re interested in establishing a partnership with one of the country’s exporters. You may be considering joint ventures with Panamanian companies, franchise or licensing opportunities or sales of your products and services in Panama. Whatever your interests and needs, the resources provided here will lead you to information that can support your entry into this vibrant market.

The U.S. Department of State notes that Panama has bilateral free trade agreements with Chile, El Salvador, Taiwan, Singapore, Honduras and Costa Rica and is exploring free trade negotiations with Mexico and other Latin American countries. The U.S. itself signed a Trade Promotion Agreement with Panama in June 2007. Panama ratified the agreement in July 2007; ratification by the U.S. has not yet occurred.