Japan Requests Cap on Canal Fees, Considers Funding a Railroad in Panama

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David Sexton – A government press release said that on May 2, President Ricardo Martinelli met with Japanese Minister of Foreign Affairs Fumio Kishida, who described the progress that Panama has made in terms of the economy and the canal expansion as a very important issue for Japan, the fourth most frequent user of the waterway.

During the first visit to Panama by a Japanese foreign minister, FM Fumio Kishida expressed concerns of shipping companies about increasing spikes in canal transit fees and called for a dialogue with the shipping industry. Kishida then requested a cap on canal transit fees, citing the increased importance of the waterway for Japan as it imports more natural gas from the United States.

Panamanian Foreign Minister Nunez, who also attended the meeting, was quoted telling Kishida that it’s important to listen to what users of the canal have to say.

Meantime, Martinelli affirmed that studies are being carried out on the viability of a Japanese loan to finance the construction of a railroad from Panama City to the isthmus’ western provinces. Martinelli added: “We have commenced discussions relevant to having a direct flight between Panama and Tokyo, from Tocumen airport, and explained all the advantages that Japanese entrepreneurs will have in establishing their businesses in our territory.”

While Kishida urged Panama to place orders with Japanese businesses, Martinelli reiterated the need for Japanese loans and said that if the rail system is built it will be a symbol of Japan’s infrastructure projects in Latin America.

After the talks, Kishida told reporters, “I hope a dialogue with Japan’s shipping companies will be promoted and a major achievement will be scored in transporting shale gas and in other areas.”

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