Panama's economy grew by 7.6% in the second quarter of 2013, led by brisk activity in the construction and mining sectors, the government statistics agency said. Growth picked up from the first quarter, when the economy expanded by an upwardly revised 7.3%. Still, the pace of growth has eased from 2012, when the economy grew by 10.8%.
The global economic slowdown has dampened trade through Panama's canal and ports, partly due to a delay in the opening of an expansion to the country's waterway. The expansion to the canal is not expected to be operational until mid-2015. Panama's economy has also been affected by a dispute with two of its biggest trading partners, Colombia and Venezuela, which has disrupted Panama's Colon Free Trade Zone, the world's largest duty-free area after Hong Kong. Venezuelan traders owe the free trade zone about $1.2Bn because of difficulties exchanging the Venezuelan bolivar for dollars.
Meanwhile, Colombia has imposed additional surcharges on importing items such as clothes and shoes. Panama's Economy Ministry expects overall growth of 8.5% in 2013, while the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America predicts growth of 7.5%.