Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida was in Panama on Thursday in an official visit – the first visit to the country by a Japanese foreign minister – and communicated to the Panamanian government a request by Japan to cap the transit fees for the Panama Canal. The waterway that connects the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific is very important to Japan these days as it continues to rely on imported natural gas from resource fields in southern and eastern United States, as well as from Canada.
Kishida met with his Panamanian counterpart Fernando Nunez Fabrega and President Ricardo Martinelli in Panama Thursday morning, discussing this immediate request by the Japanese government and other bilateral issues. According to Kishida, shipping companies which transported the natural gas imports that Japan sorely need have been concerned about successive increases in the transit fees and requested that the Panamanian government have a dialogue with the shipping industry. Japan’s reliance on fossil fuels for thermal power generation stems from the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster which led to almost all of Japan’s nuclear reactors being shut down for safety concerns. As the U.S. and Canada are currently exploiting new fields of shale gas, Japan continues to import the resource to plug the gap left by the mothballing of the nuclear power plants. Nunez was quoted saying that it is very important to listen to what users of the canal have to say, which is quite a positive response looking towards communications with the shipping industry.
The interest of bilateral trade and cooperation, Kishida also informed the Panamanian leaders that Japan has started to study opportunities to finance a rail project in Panama to help alleviate the chronic traffic problems in Panama City. President Martinelli commended Japan and reiterated that the Central American country indeed needed the Japanese loans. He said that if the rail system is built, it will be one of Japan’s lasting legacies in infrastructure projects in Latin America. After the talks, Kishida told reporters, “I hope a dialogue with Japan’s shipping companies will be promoted and a major achievement will be scored in transporting shale gas and in other areas.”
[via Global Post]
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