International Relations and Cooperation Deputy Minister Marius Fransman has concluded a successful two-day visit to the Republic of Panama, which took place on 10 and 11 September 2012.
The Deputy Minister visited Panama at the invitation of his counterpart, Deputy Foreign Minister Francisco Alvarez de Soto, who visited South Africa in April 2012.
During his visit, Deputy Minister Fransman held meetings with his counterpart, Deputy Foreign Minister Alvarez, as well as with Panama's Deputy Ministers of Commerce and Industry, Finance and Economics, as well as Agriculture and Industry.
The bilateral meeting between Deputy Ministers Fransman and De Soto focussed on enhancing cooperation in the field of education, culture, health, climate change and biodiversity, tourism, as well as economic development and trade.
Regional and multilateral issues of mutual interest such as the establishment of a regional United Nations (UN) Centre in Panama, reform of the UN Security Council and addressing current challenges such as piracy, natural humanitarian disasters and conflicts in Africa and the Middle East, were also discussed.
The high-level visits undertaken this year by the two Deputy Ministers have provided an opportunity to further enhance bilateral discussions between South Africa and Panama, with a focus on strengthening economic relations.
Following his bilateral meeting, Deputy Minister Fransman met with the Chamber of Commerce, Agriculture and Industries. The Deputy Minister outlined South Africa and Panama's unique geographical positions as economic gateways to their respective regions. In this regard, Deputy Minister Fransman outlined the benefits of South Africa's membership of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS), Africa's trade and investment potential and Africa's infrastructure development programmes. Panama's Chamber of Commerce indicated an interest in utilising South Africa's experience in sustainable exploration of mining in minerals.
Deputy Minister Fransman also met with the Director of Strategic Alliance of Panama's COPA Airlines to discuss cooperation with South African Airways through code sharing, to create direct links for passengers between the two countries. Panama is a hub for air traffic in Latin America.
The Deputy Minister visited the Panama Canal and met with Mr Leopoldo Benedetti, General Manager of the Colon Duty Free Zone and President of the Free Zone Users Association. Deputy Minister Fransman witnessed first-hand the opportunities and advantages for shipping access to the Pacific and trade in general.
Deputy Minister Fransman attended a ceremony at a primary school in Panama's province of Colon that was renamed "Republic of South Africa". Deputy Minister Fransman was accompanied by Panama's Deputy Foreign Minister and Deputy Minister of Education. Deputy Minister Fransman stated that South Africa felt honoured and priviledged to experience this occasion and stressed that the belief in the spirit of humanity and international solidarity is important for South Africans.
Deputy Minister Fransman also visited the City of Knowledge. The City of Knowledge is an institution providing facilities and support to programmes in education, research, technological development and innovation, while promoting integration of institutions and business, as well as being self-sustainable.
A joint project between relevant institutions in South Africa and the City of Knowledge was proposed and the City of Knowledge requested South Africa's experience in the "green economy", especially in the field of sustainable mining of mineral resources.
On conclusion of his visit, Deputy Minister Fransman met a growing South African expatriate community in Panama that is involved in business and trade. The Deputy Minister is travelling today, 12 September, to Havana, Cuba, to complete his two-nation visit.
Department of International Relations and Cooperation