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UK exchange with counterparts in Panama highlights common interests for both countries

On 20 October, BGIPU convened a virtual bilateral meeting between UK and Panamanian Parliamentarians. The discussion was moderated by BGIPU Executive Member, Mark Menzies MP, and was attended on the UK side by Baroness D’Souza, Baroness Hooper, Catherine West MP, Lord Dholakia and Lord Mountevans. The newly appointed Her Majesty’s Ambassador to Panama, Mr Tim Stew, also attended the discussion. The Panamanian delegation was led by H.D. Mariano López; he was accompanied by H.D. Gonzalo González, H.D. Luis Cruz, H.D. Hernán Delgado, H.D. Edison Broce, H.D. Juan Diego Vásquez, and their Ambassador in the UK, Ms Natalia Royo De Hagerman. The meeting was a useful exchange and there was obvious interest on both sides to enhance parliamentary relations.

Discussions opened with a focus on the impact of climate change and the road to COP26. In July 2021, Panama was named “Blue Leader” for its conservation efforts under the 30×30 Global Ocean Alliance. An Alliance which seeks to expand protected marine territories by 30% by 2030. Despite this positive achievement, the Panamanian delegation expressed concern about the increased single plastic use since COVID-19. There are more masks, PPE equipment and other single-use plastic disposed of improperly and ending up in the oceans around the country. The Panamanian delegation also proudly explained that the country is carbon neutral. The discussion on climate change ended with a joint agreement at the necessity to move shipping away from diesel. Both countries are hopeful this is one of the many topics which will be discussed at the forthcoming COP26 meeting in Glasgow.

The discussion moved on to the COVID-19 pandemic. Panama is currently on the UK’s red list and the delegates considered the route and current actions being taken to move the country onto the green list. Although shipping through the panama canal continued during the pandemic, there has been a 7% drop in economic activity due to COVID-19 in the central American block. There was shared optimism from both sides that issues relating to the pandemic would be resolved when sufficient numbers of people around the world had been vaccinated.

During the course of the bilateral exchange, both delegations reiterated the importance of the UK and Panamanian relationship and the need for collaboration at a time when we are confronted with global challenges that affect everyone. Both sides agreed that COP26 would serve as an opportunity to discuss solutions and agree a mutually cooperative and beneficial way forwards. Positive bilateral relations and clear communication are key to this endeavour. Panamanian Parliamentarians invited the UK Members to visit their country as soon as it is possible. Both countries expressed their gratitude for the opportunity to have such a fruitful bilateral exchange and looked forward to continuing engagement.

BGIPU Secretariat