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Panama approaches ‘Pharmacy of the World’ India for affordable medicines

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar with Panama President Laurentino Cortizo Cohen and Foreign Minister Janaina Tewaney Mencomo (Images courtesy: Twitter/@presidenciapma)

Panama, a small Central American country known more for its unique geographic location, is quite keen on having an alliance with India to access quality, effective and cheap medicines for its population of about 4.5 million.

Listing it as a “goal of the current administration”, Panamanian President Laurentino Cortizo Cohen discussed his country’s strong desire to make an alliance with the Indian pharmaceutical industry when he met with External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar – the first EAM from India to visit the country – in the capital Panama City, earlier Tuesday.

Both President Cohen and Foreign Minister Janaina Tewaney Mencomo spotlighted India’s growing economic prowess, calling it a “powerhouse” which is the world’s largest democracy and fifth largest global economy, having just pushed the United Kingdom to sixth place.

As they discussed trade, technology and pharmaceutical relations, Cohen listed the advantages that Panama offers for the establishment of more companies and also its plan to develop a centre of technological excellence and innovation in the country that links the continents of North and South America.

The Panamanian President accentuated the strategic geographical, logistical and port position of Panama, to attract good foreign investment, and highlighted his country as an ideal destination to establish Indian companies.

The politically, strategically and economically important Panama Canal that connects the Atlantic Ocean with the Pacific Ocean is the only international waterway with port terminals in two oceans and has an undisputed effect on world economic and commercial development.

The rapprochement between Panama and India corresponds to the strategic objectives of Panama’s Foreign Policy, directed by Cohen and which contributes to strengthening commercial investment, cooperation in innovation and energy, and pharmaceutical industries.

At the same time, it drives forward Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s initiative of using India’s ongoing G20 presidency to give resonance to the voice of the global south.

Jaishankar told the Panamanian President that India considers Panama as the gateway to the American continent and that, as the fifth largest global economy, it could benefit from entering the Latin American market with technology, medicine production and the strengthening of companies, especially those dedicated to pharmaceutical production, to through the Panama Logistics Hub.

Panama India
External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar with Panama Foreign Minister Janaina Tewaney Mencomo

Later, while delivering the keynote address at the India-Latin America Business event in the capital city, Jaishankar told the gathering that India-Latin America trade is nearing US$ 50 billion with a much-diversified basket that has seen a significant increase in investments and interest in mining, energy, agro and infrastructure sectors.

“As the fifth largest economy, our presence across the world is steadily growing. Transformation in manufacturing, infrastructure, innovation and startup culture within India are game changers. Long awaited reforms in India has led to record Indian exports. Latin America is an attractive market,” said Jaishankar.

The EAM mentioned that Indian project execution has grown across geographies with ‘Made in India’ and ‘Delivered by India’ becoming realities globally. He also underscored how by providing Covid vaccines to 100 countries and medicines to 150 nations, India’s proposition as ‘Pharmacy of the World’ is welcomed by all.

“A robust digital backbone in India allows delivery of public goods and tools for business. Manufacturing pick-up via Production Linked Incentives and support to vendor chains and MSMEs. Indian products are a natural fit for Latin American middle class,” he reasoned.

During his visit, Jaishankar also spoke on the importance of the Indian diaspora in Panama, the presence of which dates back to the middle of the 19th Century when groups of Indians came to Panama to work on the construction of Panama Railways and later the Panama Canal in the early 20th Century.