Rutte in Panama

Prime Minister Mark Rutte was in Panama from Friday 10 to Sunday 12 April. He had been invited by President Juan Carlos Varela to attend the Summit of the Americas. At the summit, which is held by the Organization of American States every three years, Mr Rutte also met with Cuban President Raúl Castro.

The aim of the visit was also to strengthen economic relations with Panama. Mr Rutte kicked off a Kingdom-wide maritime and logistics trade mission led by Mike Eman, the Prime Minister of Aruba. He also visited the new section of the Panama Canal and the artificial island off the coast of Panama City, both of which were constructed by Dutch companies.

Following Mr Rutte’s return to the Netherlands, Mr Eman stayed on in Panama to continue the mission.

Lock gates for the Panama Canal

At the Panama Canal Mr Rutte saw 16 new lock gates designed by Dutch businesses. ‘The agreement I signed with the Panamanian government earlier this weekend will strengthen cooperation between our countries,’ he said. ‘For example, Dutch expertise in water management is of interest to Panama. And further expansion of the Panama Canal will present opportunities for Dutch businesses. Dutch companies can provide solutions to problems in Panama, and this will in turn generate jobs in the Netherlands.’

Common ground between Panama and the Netherlands

Panama and the Netherlands have a lot in common when it comes to logistics. Schiphol Airport and the Port of Rotterdam make the Netherlands an important gateway to Europe. And, thanks to the Panama Canal, Panama occupies the same role in Latin America. ‘The Netherlands is one of the biggest investors in Panama. And the economy is growing quickly in both our countries. So there’s plenty of scope for doing more business.’

Meeting with Raúl Castro

In the evening of 11 April Mr Rutte met with Cuban President Raúl Castro. The meeting lasted an hour. They spoke about the historic rapprochement between Cuba and the United States and the implications for the region. Mr Rutte and President Castro also discussed economic development and strengthening relations between the Netherlands and Cuba. The Netherlands already has diplomatic relations with the communist country. ‘Hopefully the rapprochement will lead to more openness, economic growth and democratic development in Cuba,’ Mr Rutte said. ‘It’s important for the region as a whole, including the Caribbean part of our Kingdom.’

Meeting between President Obama and President Castro

Mr Rutte said that the meeting between the American and Cuban presidents at the Summit of the Americas was ‘an important step towards normalising relations between Cuba and the United States.’

Strong ties between the Netherlands and Latin America

Mr Rutte also met with President Obama and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon at the summit. ‘I also spoke with a number of Latin American heads of government. The Netherlands has strong ties with countries in the region, partly because the Caribbean part of the Kingdom is an immediate neighbour,’ he said.