The World Trade Organization (WTO) reported that there was a significant recomposition of Panama‘s exports between 2013 and 2020.
Indeed, Panama’s exports went from being dominated by agricultural and food products to depending above all on mining exports, copper, more precisely, non-existent until 2019 and which came to represent 56% of the total exported in 2020.
At the same time, exports of products from the animal kingdom fell from 19 to 7% between 2013 and 2020.
Those of vegetable products fell from 17.9 to 10.4 percent.
Within the main items, the external sales of fruits stand out (9.0% in 2020, 15.6% in 2013), fish and shellfish (3.9% of the total in 2020, 13.8% in 2013), vegetables (2.7%), meat (2.1%) and sugars (1.5 percent).
Meanwhile, according to a WTO report, the contribution of manufacturing exports (Chapters 25 to 97 of the Harmonized System) was around 20 percent.
In contrast, Panamanian imports consist mainly of manufactured products (including those from agribusiness), which accounted for about 78% of imports in 2020.
The main imported products are machinery and equipment (mechanical machinery), transport equipment (motor vehicles), products from the chemical and related industries (mainly pharmaceuticals) and mineral fuels.
International trade is of great importance to the Panamanian economy.
Thus, the sum of Panama’s exports and imports of goods and services represented 82% of GDP in 2019.
The structure of merchandise trade in Panama is particular, since it is necessary to distinguish between trade within the Panamanian customs territory itself and trade carried out through the Colon Free Zone (ZLC), due to the great weight that this Last in total trade figures.
In particular, the ZLC is responsible for about three quarters of the value of the country’s total merchandise trade.
The statistics and analysis presented by the WTO do not include imports from the rest of the world to the ZLC, nor exports and re-exports from the ZLC to the rest of the world.
However, the WTO includes sales (exports) from the customs territory of Panama to the ZLC and other Panamanian free zones, and purchases (imports) from the ZLC and other Panamanian free zones to the customs territory of Panama.
Merchandise trade flows were greatly affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, which caused a very sharp drop in both imports and non-mining exports.
This was the culmination of a period in which the value of merchandise imports fell slightly, from 13,031 million dollars in 2013 to 12,836 million in 2019, and then fell by 36%, to 8,179 million in 2020.
The value of exports showed a sustained drop between 2013 and 2018, to then rebound in 2019 and increase in 2020 as a result of the substantial increase in copper exports, which became the main export product.