Panama backs Kra Canal as right move for Thai growth
BUILDING a channel linking two major seas would boost Thailand’s role in global connectivity, said Panama’s Vice President Isabel de Saint Malo de Alvarado, whose country has played a similar role for over a century since it opened the Panama Isthmus in 1914.
“I think it is very powerful in every way for connectivity in the future. It’s a huge potential for growth for Thailand,” de Alvarado replied when asked if the Kingdom should go ahead with plans to build the Kra Canal linking the Gulf of Thailand with the Andaman Sea. “I think that is the correct direction.”
When asked if security was ever a concern for Panama, she said security is always a concern, but strong cooperation with regional allies had helped her country stay secure.
De Alvarado, who is also foreign minister, was in Thailand for a bilateral visit. She met her counterpart, Don Pramudwinai, before making a courtesy call on Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha to discuss a wide range of subjects on bilateral cooperation, notably air and maritime connectivity.
She said her country plays a significant role as a gateway for Thailand to access Latin America and the Caribbean.
“We are also interested in infrastructure projects in Thailand including deep-sea ports,” she said. With deep-sea ports, Thailand will be able to send large ships directly from Thailand to Panama, with local and regional cargo, she added.
Thailand could learn from Panama’s experience in establishing a special economic zone, the Colon Free Trade Zone, which can be applied to the Eastern Economic Corridor Project, she added.
Panama is also interested in signing a free-trade agreement with Thailand, she said, adding that her government will discuss the matter with the government once it has concluded free-trade negotiations with China next year.
In a meeting with the private sector, de Alvarado said her country could open the door for Thai firms to establish their headquarters in Panama, so they could connect to Latin America and the Caribbean.
“We are also working on strengthening our export sector. We export some fruit and I know Thailand produces a lot of fruit, so we need to find out what products Thailand does not have. We are also working on the export of meat, so we will need to sit down, discuss and identify the areas of cooperation,” she said.
At a meeting with Thai officials, Panama also expressed interest in partnering with Asean and signing a friendship pact with the group. Since Thailand will be chairing the regional grouping next year, it could back Panama in signing the friendship pact, she said.
De Alvarado is also visiting Singapore and Indonesia.