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Panama: welcome mat for free zones

Monday, March 5, 2012

As part of an aggressive competition for foreign investment, Panama is opening a major new free-trade zone, and recently inaugurated a centralized data center, which makes it easy for an investor to register and start a business.

In addition, the Multinational Headquarters Law (Ley de Sedes de Multinacionales) creates flexible labor rules, which make it easier for free-zone companies to operate.

The new free zone, with 1,400 hectares (3,500 acres) of land, is located on the site of what was formerly the Howard base of the United States Air Force.

The Panamanian government last July awarded the free-zone area as a 40-year concession to Howard Acquisitions, a private company.

For their part, labor rules in force since 2008 let a free-zone company bring in staff from outside Panama.

It also lets companies cut personnel, in a time of economic downturn, although a government agency has the right to review and presumably block layoffs.

Some 70 companies established free-zone operations in Panama last year, including Otis, SAB Miller, Ericsson, Nestlé and Adidas.


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