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Doing business in Panama

Commercial Section

The Economic and Commercial Office of the Italian Embassy supports and promotes Italian companies in the promotion of their activities and investments in Panama. Equally, it supports Panamanian companies interested in investing in Italy and/or importing products and services from Italy.

For inquiries, please send an email to: comm.ambpanama@esteri.it

Alternatively, information about Panama (and any other country worldwide) can be requested through the NEXUS platform of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.

ICE Agency

The economic-commercial promotion activity of the Italian Embassy in Panama is carried out in collaboration with the ICE Office in Bogotá, which is responsible for Panama.

The ICE – Agency for the promotion abroad and internationalization of Italian companies is the body through which our Government promotes the consolidation and economic-commercial development of Italian companies in foreign markets. Its objective is also to promote the attraction of foreign investments in Italy.

Through its network of offices abroad, ICE carries out information, assistance, consultancy, promotion, and training activities, mainly aimed at small and medium-sized Italian companies.

ICE Bogotá Calle 93b 9-92 Bogotá, COLOMBIA Email: bogota@ice.it Tel: (00571) 7030410 / 7030433

WHY PANAMA

Historically, Panama has served as a trade crossroads for the Americas. Its strategic position as a bridge between two oceans and the meeting point of two continents has made Panama not only a maritime and air transport hub but also an international trade, banking, and service center. Panama is progressively consolidating its importance globally and regionally, thanks to processes of liberalization, privatization, and active participation in free trade agreements.

With an economy based on the dollar, Panama offers the advantages of a relatively low inflation economic system – compared to neighboring countries – no exchange rate risk, a stable and democratic government that actively encourages foreign investments in all sectors, particularly services, tourism, and the real estate sector.

Since 2010, the three main rating agencies – Standard & Poor’s, Moody’s, and Fitch – have upgraded their ratings on Panama to investment grade, recognizing significant tax reforms and GDP growth records, with a controlled deficit.

Panama’s economy is primarily based on a well-developed service sector, representing about 75% of GDP. Services include the Panama Canal, banks, activities in the Colon Free Trade Zone, insurance, and container ports. The country has recently completed the Panama Canal expansion project (worth $5.25 billion), allowing the transit of significantly larger vessels, potentially altering global trade navigation routes. The canal expansion, inaugurated in June 2016, along with expanding capacities at its ports on both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts and ongoing investments in infrastructure, will consolidate Panama’s global logistics advantage in the Western Hemisphere.

This logistics platform has contributed to the success of the Colon Free Trade Zone (CFZ), the second largest in the world, becoming a significant commercial and transshipment center serving the region and the world. The CFZ observes imports from around the world – a wide range of luxury goods, electronic products, garments, and other consumer products – which are resold, repackaged, and redistributed, primarily in regional markets. The Government has established additional free zones, offering incentives and tax benefits for international companies interested in establishing their own entities there.

Panama has free trade agreements in force with the following countries: El Salvador, Taiwan, Singapore, Chile, Costa Rica, Honduras, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Peru, the United States, Canada, and Mexico. Panama has partial trade agreements with the Dominican Republic and Cuba. An agreement has also been signed with Colombia, which has not yet come into force. It is also part of the Central American FTA with the European Union, which came into force in 2013. Panama is an observer of the Pacific Alliance and has expressed interest in joining the group. It continues to negotiate free trade agreements with Korea and Israel.

Starting a business in Panama

Starting a business in Panama is very simple and fast. However, it is necessary to rely on a local legal firm, and then proceed with the opening of a local anonymous company. Once registered with the Mercantile Division of the Public Registry and the annual single tax (approximately $300) is paid, it is possible to obtain the so-called ‘Aviso de Operación’ through the Panama Tramita portal, allowing for this and hundreds of other administrative procedures to be carried out online.

For some sectors, it is necessary to obtain prior authorization before being able to request the ‘Aviso de operación.’ For more information, consult the website https://www.panamatramita.gob.pa/es/tramite/solicitud-para-obtener-un-aviso-de-operaci%C3%B3n-licencia-comercial

PROPANAMA

The ProPanama Agency, in analogy with the functions of the ICE Agency for Italy, is responsible for promoting Panamanian products and companies abroad and attracting foreign investments to the country. On its website, you can find regulations, information, statistics, incentives, and current benefits in Panama.

In the two documents attached to this page, you can find a brief presentation of the advantages and characteristics of Panama and a summary of the main special regimes for attracting foreign companies and capital.