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ISRAEL, PANAMA MEET FOR SECOND ROUND  OF NEGOTIATIONS ON FREE TRADE AGREEMENT

 

Negotiations Get into High Gear as Israeli Delegation Arrives in Panama

 

JERUSALEM – March 3rd, 2015 -- A 12-strong Israeli delegation headed by Ministry of Economy officials and comprised of professional staff from relevant government ministries are in Panama City to participate in a second round of negotiations for a free trade agreement between Israel and the Republic of Panama. The negotiations are part of the Foreign Trade Administration at the Ministry of Economy's policy of expanding Israeli exports to new markets, and the Israeli government's policy of strengthening relations with Latin American countries.

 

The agreement is expected to serve as another springboard for Israeli service providers - especially in software, communication, information security, engineering and R&D - thus expanding the potential of this and related markets.

 

The second round of talks began Monday in Panama City and will last four days. Twelve working groups are expected to discuss the following subjects: access to markets, customs, services and investments, intellectual property, protection of flora and fauna and veterinary aspects, trade obstacles, institutional issues and conflict resolution. Two more rounds of talks are expected before the negotiations are completed.

 

Head of the Foreign Trade Administration in the Israel Ministry of Economy Ohad Cohen said: "The Israeli Ministry of Economy continues to strengthen Israel's economic ties with countries around the world with an emphasis on developing economies with great potential for growth. In this case, we are expanding Israel's economic footprint in Latin America, in accordance with our policy of expanding export horizons for Israeli industry and service sectors. The agreement will forge new opportunities for Israeli companies and give them a competitive edge against foreign companies. Panama is a signatory to free trade agreements with many countries including the US, the EU, Canada, EFTA countries, Singapore, Taiwan, Peru, Colombia, Chile and Mexico. A free trade agreement with Panama will level Israel's position regarding trade benefits with those countries."

 

Mrs. Yifat Alon-Perel, Director, Bilateral Trade and Economic Agreements at the Ministry of Economy and head of the Israeli delegation to the talks said: "Free trade agreements constitute a significant framework for Israeli exports. Today, about 65% of Israeli exports go to countries with which Israel shares free trade agreements, giving exporters benefits regarding customs and a competitive edge. The Foreign Trade Administration continues to work for the benefit of Israeli exporters by guaranteeing their products remain competitive and by ensuring easier access to new markets while striving to remove trade obstacles exporters typically face in these markets. Israeli exporters enjoy a competitive advantage in Mexico thanks to the longstanding free trade agreement our countries have enjoyed since 2000, as well as to the Mercosur states, including Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay. In addition, one year ago a free trade agreement was signed with Colombia which is expected to go into effect in about a year. Our goal is to increase Israeli industry's competitive advantage by signing agreements with more countries, including Panama. Tightening economic ties with Panama is doubly important both for opening new markets for Israeli industry and for strengthening Israel's standing among Latin American countries."

 

According to the Foreign Trade Administration at the Israeli Ministry of Economy, the economy of Panama is based primarily on a developed service sector which constitutes more than three quarters of its GDP and includes the operation of the Panama Canal, logistics, banking, the free trade zone in Colón, insurance, ports, shipping registration and tourism. Economic growth in Panama in 2013 exceeded 8% and is attributed - among other factors - to the widening of the Panama Canal which began in 2007 at a cost of $5.3 billion. Additional infrastructure development projects expected to take place in the country may very well draw Israeli firms with relevant expertise.

 

Panama is a candidate to join the Pacific Alliance, a bloc of Latin American nations including Mexico, Colombia (both of which enjoy free trade agreements with Israel), Chile and Peru. The bloc includes 200 million consumers and a joint GDP of over $3 trillion. This constitutes 35% of the total GDP of Latin American countries and over 50% of Latin American trade. Israeli exports to Panama in 2014 stood at $25 million and imports from Panama at $3 million.

 

 

 

 

President Reuven Rivlin this morning (Sunday, 7 December 2014), participated in the Globes 'Israel Business Conference' in Tel Aviv. The President spoke 'in conversation' with Globes Editor-in-Chief Guy Rolnik about the proposed upcoming elections. He said, "I hope that what happened before won't happen this time, with regard to the voter turnout. I am afraid the public will not get out to vote, because they have lost faith. I hope everyone will vote."

 

The President continued, "Even the political leaders need to understand that a return to the central voter blocs is important for governance and the ability to make difficult decisions. The elections always raise the same questions: security or society, but today, we have to find a solution to both, it is no longer 'either or'. The social protests brought about the unprecedented replacement of 57 members of Knesset, and that was a clear message."

 

In relation to the situation in Israel's society, the President said, "We find ourselves with two economies – the Start Up nation, and another Israel. The gaps are growing and widening even within the second group, and amongst the middle classes. All this demands the involvement of society; by voting and understanding that elected representatives are elected to deal with these issues too."

 

 

 The President continued to address the issue of violence in Israel over the past months. "The cure for violence, is hope. As Jewish leaders, we must deal with the issue of Jewish fundamentalism, and Arab leaders need to deal with the issue of Arab fundamentalism. Where there is no hope, violence breeds."

 

To the question of how the President regards the suggestion he had changed his opinions since entering office, he said, "I was and remain a student of Jabotinsky, the education system within which I was educated and raised was that of the Herut and the Likud. I have said in the past, and I say again and again. Jews and Arabs were not doomed to live together, but destined to live together. As a Jew and a Zionist, I believe fully in the Jewish State, which must be democratic, and governed according to the will of the majority. That which I say today, I have been saying for years, and all who know me are aware of this."

 

To the question of whether the President was a 'digital president', the President responded, "I write with a fountain pen, and sometimes with a pencil. My grandchildren have shown me the marvels of the internet. I understood early on, the magnitude of the revolution that the internet has brought and the significance it holds for our lives. Personally however, I can't really send a text message without the help of my aides. That said, I understand what I am talking about, and I can happily live with it with my grandchildren by my side."

 

Photos  Silvia G Golan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The opening day ceremony of the Stock Exchange took place on Wednesday, March 26, in Aviv University, in occasion of the National Science Day, with the presence of the Governor of the Central Bank of Israel, Dr. Karnit Flug, the Stock Exchange General Manager, Mr. Yossi Beinart, the Stock Exchange Chairman Substitute, Dr. Ron Malka, General Manager of the Science and Technology Ministry, lawyer Bina Bar-On, and Tel Aviv University President, Prof Joseph Klafter

The opening day ceremony of the Stock Exchange took place on Wednesday, March 26, in Aviv University, in occasion of the National Science Day, with the initiative of the Science and Technology Ministry

The event was opened by the Stock Exchange General Manager, Mr. Yossi Beinart, who said: "There is great importance in strengthening the connection between science, technology, industry and financial market. This connection contributes to the to the innovation processes that serve as important sources to advancement and economic growth. The encouragement of the connection between science, technology and industry enables developments that can serve as basis for implementable ideas in industry, for production that will improve the living conditions and to economic growth for the benefit of all. The financial and stock markets are significant factors in these processes".

The Tel Aviv University President, Prof Joseph Klafter, said: "The rising of awareness to science in this day can encourage youngsters to study different science disciplines. This science day will enable a glance to break-thru researches conducted in universities. The university is a huge start-up of creativity and innovative ideas". Prof Joseph Klafter also indicated that "science shapes all aspects of our lives, from security to medicine. We live in a fascinating period of accelerated scientific development, where technologies and scientific developments reach massive use with unprecedented speed".

The Governor of the Central Bank of Israel, Dr. Karnit Flug, surveyed the payment means in the market. She enumerated the layers that compose this "tubing" in the financial system, and explained the roles of the Central Bank in the regularization and protection of the payment and clearing systems. Then, she enumerated the different means of payment - the traditional ones, based on paper, and the new ones, based on technology - and described the advantages and disadvantages of each.

Dr. Flug then noted: "The Central Bank of Israel promoted reforms and steps intended to make the new means of payments easier and safer. Among these: development of a payment system for immediate clearing called Real Time Gross Settlement (RTGS), joining to the CLS international system, payment system law and improvement of the different clearing systems. In addition, the Locker committee, which is expected to publish her conclusions soon, will encourage the increase of the use of electronic payment means".

 

Photo: Open University of Tel Aviv Stock Exchange. Left to right: Exchange CEO, Mr. Yossi Beinart, CEO of the Ministry of Science Bina Bar - On, Governor of the Bank of Israel, Dr. Karnit Flug, president of Tel Aviv University, Prof. Joseph Klafter and Deputy Chairman Exchange Dr. Ron Malka 
Photo: Kobi Kantor
 
 

 

The Economy Ministry, via its Investment Center, will invest NIS 33 million in subsidies of higher salaries for employees working for factories and companies located in national priority areas. An extra NIS 27 million will be invested in promoting high salary employment within the cyber industry. Total Economy Ministry in these two tracks: NIS 60 million.

Conditions for the financial assistance: at least 60% of new employees must reside in the national priority areas. The Economy Ministry expects that this financial aid will provide employment to graduates of academic institutions located throughout the priority areas (most of which are in the periphery), particularly in the fields of high tech, engineering, programming and other well-paid professions.

Economy Minister Naftali Bennett: " National priority areas in Israel represent one of the largest business opportunities in the Middle East today. There is great importance in government intervention, in order to create an appropriate ecosystem to attract leading international and Israeli companies that will set up the base of their operations in these areas."

Economy Ministry Director-General Amit Lang recently signed a directive that defines two additional tracks for assistance in employment in the national priority areas. The Director-General's directive, which aims to promote and develop the national priority areas and help recruit more employees into Israeli businesses (in accordance with government decisions 1272 and 546), will be published in the coming days as part of the Director-General's directive 4.18. The financial assistance will be distributed via the Ministry's Investment Center.

The track is aimed at companies and factories with an annual turnover higher than NIS 100 million (in the year prior to application), that are committed to establishing an initiative or business, expanding an existing factory in the national priority areas or relocating a factory to the national priority areas.

Within the cyber track, the company is also required to meet the definition "Cyber Company" and to establish or expand its activities in one or more "designated settlement" as described in the directive.

The conditions of this financial assistance: at least 60% of the new employees must reside in the national priority areas. Employers, who request salary subsidies within the tracks, are required to pay newly hired employees salaries that are 2.5 times higher than the average salary in Israel. Salary subsidies will decrease on a sliding scale each year - in the first year, up to 40% salary subsidy will be given within the cyber industry and up to 35% in the general track, whereas in the fourth year, salary subsidies will be reach 25% in the cyber program and 10% in the general track.

Economy Minister Naftali Bennett: "National priority areas across Israel – and particularly the Negev - represent one of the largest business opportunities in the Middle East today. I am not a big believer in government intervention although, in this regard, it is very important for the government to intervene so that an appropriate ecosystem can be created within these areas to attract leading international and Israeli companies. I believe that the factories and companies who will be attracted into these areas following government intervention will discover its huge potential."

Investment Center Director Nahum Itzkowitz: "The new tracks were created to assist in the recruitment of highly-paid employees while emphasizing on increasing the rate of growth and encouraging the creation of highly-paid positions within the national priority areas. We assist investors who are interested in establishing or expanding initiatives with highly paid employees in the national priority areas or in relocating a company or factory to these priority areas. The assistance is given via partial salary subsidies of highly-paid employees".

 

 

 

TOURISM MINISTRY INCLUDES GAZA PERIPHERY IN LIST OF AREAS ELIGIBLE FOR FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE:
THE MINISTRY WILL GRANT NIS 1 MILLION TO SMALL TOURIST BUSINESSES AND TOURIST ACCOMMODATION IN THE REGION.

In total, the ministry will allocate NIS 8 million in 2014 to residents in the periphery for tourist business development and the establishment of tourist accommodation.
The grant for establishing tourist accommodation: up to 24%
The grant for small tourist businesses: up to 30%

Tourism Minister Dr. Uzi Landau: "Tourist accommodation and small businesses are the core of tourism in the periphery. The Tourism Ministry which I lead will continue to encourage an increase in supply and competition and will make investments that will strengthen tourism in the periphery, create new jobs and turn the Gaza periphery into an attractive tourism destination for domestic and international tourists."

Tourism Ministry Director-General Amir Halevy: " In recent years, the Tourism Ministry has invested hundreds of millions of shekel in creating a larger and more varied tourism product in the periphery for the benefit of the wider public and in order to create new jobs - investments that have brought billions of shekels into the economy."

The Tourism Ministry has published directives concerning grant allocations for the establishment of tourism accommodation and for small tourist businesses in the Gaza periphery, Negev, Nazareth, Acre, Druze and Circassian villages and in the villages that are located along the Gospel Trail.

In keeping with the directive, the ministry will give grants of up to 24% of the total investment for the establishment of accommodation units and grants of up to 30% for the establishment of small tourist businesses. The grants will be allocated according to the following procedures:

1. Assistance in the Gaza periphery and Negev areas in keeping with the policy of the Tourism Ministry and the government to promote development of the tourism product as a means of assisting and strengthening the economic infrastructure of the communities that are under security and economic threat.

2. Assistance for communities living alongside the Gospel Trail, Nazareth, Acre and the Druze and Circassian villages of Daliat al Carmel and Ussfiya in keeping with the government decisions as related to the multi-year program for economic development of communities in the minorities sector and advancing them in terms of employment and social issues in the field of tourism.

Grants for establishing tourist accommodation:

NIS 500,000 for entrepreneurs living in Daliat al Carmel and Ussfiya

NIS 500,000 for entrepreneurs living in Nazareth

NIS 1 million for entrepreneurs living in the Negev and Gaza periphery

NIS 1 million for entrepreneurs living in the Druze and Circassian villages

NIS 1 million for entrepreneurs living in Acre

NIS 500,000 for entrepreneurs living near the Gospel Trail

Grants for developing small tourist businesses:

NIS 500,000 for entrepreneurs living in Daliat al Carmel and Ussfiya

NIS 500,000 for entrepreneurs living in Nazareth

NIS 1 million for entrepreneurs living in the Negev and Gaza periphery

NIS 1 million for entrepreneurs living in the Druze and Circassian villages

NIS 500,000 for entrepreneurs living near the Gospel Trail

Requests for assistance to be filed by 1 March 2014 to the RuralTourism Division at the Tourism Ministry