Exporting guide to Panama


Panama has been one of the fastest growing economies in Latin America. Due to its privileged geographic location and its sophisticated logistics infrastructure, the country has emerged as the region’s business hub, connecting 1.3 billion consumers (ProPanama).

Trade statistics

£338.0 million total UK exports to Panama for the four quarters to the end of Q2 2022

(Source: ONS UK total trade: all countries, seasonally adjusted
Last updated: October 2022)

90th largest UK export market

(Source: ONS UK total trade: all countries, seasonally adjusted
Last updated: October 2022)

less than 0.1% of total UK exports for the four quarters to the end of Q2 2022

(Source: ONS UK total trade: all countries, seasonally adjusted
Last updated: October 2022)

Political and economic stability

One of the most politically stable countries in Latin America, Panama has been a dollarized economy since 1904. There is no central bank and limited levels of inflation are registered. Panama has one of highest GDP per capita in Latin America.

Regional hub and strategic location

The Panama Canal makes the country a regional logistic hub. According to the World Economic Forum, Panama ranks seventh in the world for the efficiency of its port infrastructure; 13th in the world for the efficiency of its air transport services and first in Latin America for the sophistication of its financial services (World Economic Forum, 2019).

Top five UK goods exported to Panama, in the four quarters to the end of Q2 2022

Goods Value (£million)
Beverages 170.1
Refined oil 34.9
Medicinal & pharmaceutical products 27.1
General industrial machinery (capital) 5.3
Cars 3.5

Source: ONS Trade in goods: country-by-commodity exports
Last updated: November 2022
Download the latest trade and investment factsheet for Panama.

Panama: at a glance

Economic growth


Actual figure (IMF, 2021)
The UK is 7.4% (IMF, 2021, projected figure)

GDP per capita


Actual figure (IMF, 2020)
The UK is $41,127 (IMF, 2020, actual figure)


US dollar

Business language


You may need a translator

Time zone

GMT -5

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Opportunities for exporters

Panama's geographic position, its connectivity, and a sophisticated set of incentives has made the nation a hub to 157 multinational companies - including British giants such as GSK, Aggreko, Biwater, Diageo, JCB, G4S, BT and others.

Check for trade barriers

Trade barriers, such as tariffs or taxes, can raise costs, cause delays, or even stop you from exporting. Check for any issues that may impact your business when exporting.

See current trade barriers

See resolved trade barriers

Check duties and customs

Find information on how to export goods from the UK. View the duties, rules, restrictions, and the documents you need for your products.

See current duties and customs procedures

Doing business in Panama

Preparing to export


The UK and Panama have signed a double taxation agreement, meaning the same income is not taxed twice.

Panama offers all available incentives equally to Panamanian and foreign investors.


If you are registered for VAT, it may be possible to zero-rate the goods you export to Panama, provided certain conditions are met.

All imports into Panama and some services are subject to 7% VAT (ITBMS). Certain items are exempt, including pharmaceuticals and food and school supplies.

Import duties

Duties are assessed and set in proportion to the cost, insurance and freight (CIF) value. The Panamanian government has reduced tariffs to meet the requirements of World Trade Organisation (WTO) membership.

Trade barriers

Check for any reported barriers to trading with Panama.

Report any trade barriers that are affecting your business so we can help fix them.

Operating in Panama


There are some challenges to doing business in Panama. These include:

  • bureaucracy
  • lack of clarity and transparency in the public tendering process
  • slow judicial system

Read the overseas business risk for Panama for more guidance on the challenges of doing business there.

Using agents and distributors

You are advised to use a representative, distributor or commission agent with a commercial license. Securing exclusivity for a buying agent can be hard due to the competitive conditions of the market.

You must have a local counterpart or direct presence to participate in any Panamanian government procurement bidding processes.


The national language in Panama is Spanish. English is spoken by some people in government and business but is not universally spoken.

Most business documentation must be completed in Spanish.

Intellectual property

Intellectual property (IP) rights are territorial and rights granted in the UK do not provide protection elsewhere. You should consider getting IP protection abroad if you want to trade overseas or sell to overseas customers via the internet.

The Intellectual Property Office provides practical information to help you protect, manage and enforce your IP abroad. Further support for British businesses can be found through a network of IP attachés, based in key UK export markets.

Next steps

DIT can advise you on doing business abroad, and help put you in touch with other people who can help such as lawyers and distributors.