Colon Free Trade Zone (FTZ) or Zona Libre de Colon (ZLC) on the Atlantic coast, created in 1948, ranks second in the world after Hong Kong. In the FTZ, some particular products can be imported, stored, modified and re-exported, without any need to go through customs whether on entrance or on exit, nor to pay for any special taxes. The strategic location, in the centre of America and near the Panama Canal, offers an important potential for the development of international trade. The most important products of the FTZ are: clothes, broadcasting devices, synthetic clothes, shoes, watches, perfume and fragrance, spirits, cigarettes and pharmaceutical products. The main suppliers of the FTZ are Hong-Kong, South Korea, Singapore, some European countries and the USA. The main customers are the Caribbean islands and the countries of Central America.
Imports on products that do not exist in the country are subject to duty of less than 27%. Imports are also subject to the equivalent of VAT, transfer of movable property tax and also a tax that is paid on the documents which varies between 2 to 5% of the FOB (merchandise subject to custom duty) and from 5 to 8% (free merchandise).
In general, food products and beverages should be registered with the Panamanian food security authorities and should respect the requirements regarding hygiene and quality control. Importing food products into Panamanian territory is forbidden if the products in question are not freely on sale in their country of origin. It is the duty of the executive organ, on the request of the Ministry of Health to establish the sanitary rules relating to the fabrication, storage, importation and sale of medicines and subsidiary products. It is forbidden to manufacture or to import into Panama these products without them being analyzed or registered beforehand.
Main documents required by the Panamanian Customs authorities for import purposes:
-Import declaration (prepared by the Customs agent)
-commercial invoice (in English or Spanish to be provided in 4 copies)
-airline transport letter
-bill of lading (three copies)
-business permit number
-health or phyto-sanitary permit (in the case of animal or vegetable agricultural products)
-certificate showing that product are sold freely (in the case of products meant for human consumption including for example body lotion).
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Last Updates: October 2014