On February 4, 2016, Panama raised its complaint against the tariff measures imposed by Colombia before a World Trade Organization (WTO) arbitration panel in Geneva.

Colombia’s imposition of compound tariffs affecting the re-exportation of textiles and footwear from the Colón Free Zone has led to the appointment of a World Trade Organization (WTO) Expert Panel. During a second substantive meeting between the parties and the arbitration panel, the WTO received the technical team from the Office of International Trade Negotiations of Panama’s Ministry of Trade and Industry (MICI) (link in Spanish).

The panel aims to continue discussions between Panama and Colombia regarding a decree enacted by the latter, by which an extra 10% tariff is imposed on textiles and footwear leaving the Colón Free Zone in Panama, in addition to a charge of US$ 5 per container.

“Panama will resort to all the instances provided for by this procedure to protect its industry and demonstrate that these measures on the part of Colombia are illegal, in order for Colombia to cease applying them to re-exports of textiles and footwear from the Colón Free Zone, so as to guarantee access to the Colombian market for this sector,” stated Panama’s Minister of Trade, Melitón Arrocha.

Mr Arrocha added that “Panama feels confident that the arbitration panel’s report will clearly determine that Colombia has breached the multilateral trading rules that all our countries have committed to within the WTO legal framework, and that these illegal measures must be revoked.”

In the three weeks following the hearing, both parties must comply with the mandatory submission of final documentary evidence. On April 30, 2016, the arbitration panel will circulate the descriptive part of its report, which includes its analysis of the case. The panel’s final ruling may be issued in early August.