U.S. Relations With Panama

Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs
Fact Sheet
December 5, 2016


More information about Panama is available on the Panama Page and from other Department of State publications and other sources listed at the end of this fact sheet.

U.S.-PANAMA RELATIONS

The United States established diplomatic relations with Panama in 1903 following its declaration of independence from Colombia. That year, through the Hay/Bunau-Varilla Treaty, the United States was granted rights to a zone spanning the country to build, administer, fortify and defend an inter-oceanic canal. The Panama Canal opened in 1914. In 1977, the Torrijos-Carter Treaties were signed to set basic governing standards for the Canal through 1999 and guarantee its permanent neutrality. These treaties went into effect in 1979 and on December 31, 1999, Panama assumed full jurisdiction and operational control over the Canal.

Changes in Panama's government and tensions over the canal led to the interruption of diplomatic relations several times during the 20th century. From 1987-1989, relations deteriorated sharply under the rule of Manuel Noriega. During Operation Just Cause in 1989, U.S. troops entered Panama and captured Noriega, who would not cede power following elections. Since the restoration of democracy, Panamanians have elected five presidents from three political parties in free and fair elections.

Panama's location and role in global trade make its success vital to U.S. prosperity and national security. Panama’s key location along major land and sea transit routes makes it a critical partner in interdiction illegal drugs destined for the United States. While Panama's economic growth rate is among the highest in the hemisphere – the country faces the challenge of making this growth more inclusive. It also faces added pressure for more fiscal transparency as it enforces recent anti-money laundering legislation. Increasing pressure from drug trafficking and organized criminal activity contributes to security problems that threaten to undermine Panamanian security, democratic institutions, and economic prosperity. Because of our shared history, cultural ties between both countries are strong.

U.S. Assistance to Panama

U.S. assistance to Panama aims to ensure that it remains a secure, prosperous, and democratic country that continues to work with the United States as a principal partner in the region. The United States and Panama work together to advance common interests in improving citizen safety and strengthening the rule of law. They cooperate in many ways, including combating illegal drug trafficking and other criminal activity and promoting economic, democratic, and social development through U.S. and international agencies.

U.S. diplomatic engagement and foreign assistance in Central America is guided by the U.S. Strategy for Engagement in Central America (Strategy). In 2015, the United States announced the Strategy, a comprehensive and robust partnership with Central American governments to promote an economically integrated Central America that is fully democratic; provides economic opportunities to its people; enjoys more accountable, transparent, and effective public institutions; and ensures a safe environment for its citizens. The Strategy focuses on three overarching lines of action: 1) enhancing citizen security; 2) promoting good governance; and 3) promoting prosperity and regional economic integration. The Strategy is a multi-year effort for all seven Central American countries that builds off of previous successful partnerships and programs in the region.

Bilateral Economic Relations

The United States and Panama have signed a bilateral investment treaty and a Trade Promotion Agreement. The trade agreement eliminated tariffs and other barriers to U.S. exports, promotes economic growth, sets high standards for the treatment of investments, provides a framework for resolution of investment or trade disputes, and expands trade between the two countries. On June 26, Panama inaugurated the expansion of the Panama Canal which already has provided substantial benefits to Panama and many U.S. East-coast ports. U.S. exports to Panama include oil, machinery, aircraft, agricultural products, and low-value shipments. U.S. imports from Panama include fish and seafood, gold, cane sugar, and bananas and pineapples. Reported U.S. direct investment in Panama is led by the finance/insurance and wholesale trade sectors. Reported Panamanian direct investment in the United States is led by the manufacturing and real estate sectors.

Panama's Membership in International Organizations

Bilateral Representation

The U.S. Ambassador in Panama is John D. Feeley; other principal embassy officials are listed in the Department's Key Officers List.

Panama maintains an embassy in the United States at 2862 McGill Terrace, NW, Washington, DC 20008 (tel: 202-483-1407).

More information about Panama is available from the Department of State and other sources, some of which are listed here:

Department of State Panama Country Page
Department of State Key Officers List
CIA World Factbook Panama Page
U.S. Embassy: Panama
USAID Panama Page
History of U.S. Relations With Panama
Human Rights Reports
International Religious Freedom Reports
Trafficking in Persons Reports
Narcotics Control Reports
Investment Climate Statements
Office of the U.S. Trade Representative Countries Page
U.S. Census Bureau Foreign Trade Statistics
Export.gov International Offices Page
Library of Congress Country Studies
Travel Information