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Panama: Multilateral Relations
Country Study > Chapter 4 > Government and Politics > Foreign Relations > Multilateral Relations


Panama has long emphasized the role of multilateral forums and bodies in its foreign relations, using them to enhance its prestige, secure economic assistance, and marshall support for its dealings with the United States. In 1973 the UN Security Council held a meeting in Panama to discuss the canal issue, and the Panama Canal treaties were signed in a special ceremony at the OAS.

Panama has been an active member of the OAS since its inception. It repeatedly has used this forum to criticize United States policies, especially those regarding the canal, and to seek Latin American support for its positions. That this trend has continued was demonstrated by the 1987 OAS resolution criticizing United States interference in Panama's internal affairs.

The UN provided Panama with a platform from which it was able to address a broader audience. In 1985 Panama's vice president, Jorge Ilueca, served as president of the UN General Assembly. Within the UN, Panama frequently adopted a position on economic matters similar to that of other small, Third World nations. On political matters, it generally took a position closer to that of the United States, but it did break with the United States over the Falklands Islands issue in 1982 and was openly critical of United States Central American policy. In both cases, Panama sponsored resolutions in the UN Security Council that were at variance with United States policy. Over time, the trend has been to move slowly away from the positions held by the United States and toward those of the Nonaligned Movement.

Panama was an active member of the Nonaligned Movement and acted in it much as it did in the UN. Other multilateral organizations in which Panama maintained an active participation were the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development.

Dealings with international financial organizations and problems connected with Panama's debt formed a major part of Panama's foreign policy agenda. In 1987 Panama took part, with seven larger Latin American nations, in a major economic summit in Acapulco, Mexico. Efforts to use this forum to win support in its conflicts with the United States were largely unsuccessful, but Panama did contribute to the discussion of the debt crisis and supported the group's resolutions, which were highly critical of Western economic policies. Panama has borrowed extensively from the World Bank, the IMF, and the Inter-American Development Bank, a practice that may be jeopardized by its dispute with the United States. Panama's 1985-87 agreement with the IMF has expired, and the World Bank has suspended payments on a major structural adjustment loan because of Panama's failure to comply with a mandated austerity program.

Data as of December 1987

Last Updated: December 1987

Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for Panama was first published in 1987. Where available, the data has been updated through 2008. The date at the bottom of each section will indicate the time period of the data. Information on some countries may no longer be up to date. See the "Research Completed" date at the beginning of each study on the Title Page or the "Data as of" date at the end of each section of text. This information is included due to its comprehensiveness and for historical purposes.

Note that current information from the CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State Background Notes, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Country Briefs, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Country Profiles, and the World Bank can be found on

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