The City of Fayetteville and the Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce recently led an Economic Development and Sister City Mission to Panama City, Panama from July 8-11, 2015. Boon Tan, the Senior Director of Global Trade Strategy at the Arkansas World Trade Center, and a couple of businesses from the City of Fayetteville were part of the delegation.
The Economic Development Mission meets Fayetteville’s international trade and investment program which hopes to attract bilateral trade and foreign investment between Fayetteville and countries in Latin America. Panama was identified as the first Latin American country to work with for many reasons, including its close proximity to the US; its similar values in family, friends, and faith; its use of US currency; and sharing the same time zone as Fayetteville.
Beyond the Economic Development Mission, the delegation will be evaluating the possibility of establishing a Sister City relationship between Fayetteville and Panama City. The Fayetteville Sister City program hopes to focus on cultural, education, and trade exchanges.
To promote cultural exchange, the Fayetteville Chamber has invited four Panamanian travel/tourism/media writers to Fayetteville where they will visit and then write about Fayetteville and Northwest Arkansas. By inviting the Panamanian writers/reporters, Fayetteville hopes to attract more Panamanian tourists to the city.
On education, the Fayetteville Chamber hopes to leverage the University of Arkansas Fayetteville to continue to recruit more Panama students to study in the U of A Fayetteville campus. Currently, 10% of Panamanian students studying in the US attend the University of Arkansas Fayetteville. The delegation also hopes to increase the number of internships in Panama for the U of A students. In addition, the Chamber plans to facilitate student and teachers/counselors exchanges at the high school level.
While in Panama City, the delegation visited with many organizations including the University of Arkansas Panama Alumni Association Chapter to explore trade and investment opportunities. When the Panama Canal Expansion becomes operational in 2016, the Panama Canal is expected to have an impact on the international maritime industry and the recently concluded Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement.
Boon Tan with the Arkansas World Trade Center discussed business opportunities for the aerospace industry, energy/sustainability industry, and the agriculture industry with the Panamanian organizations.