The leading agricultural export—mainly controlled by foreigners—is bananas, followed by shrimp. The decline in exports of almost 11% from 1997 to 1998 can be explained by quotas imposed on banana exports by the EU (bananas represent nearly one-fifth of all exports). Light industry exports (clothing and manufacturing textiles) have been increasing due to the Free Trade Zone; but competition from Mexico starting in 1996 and the reduction of protective tariffs in 1998 stunted growth. Goods produced and exported from the Colón Free Zone are not accounted for in the foreign trade accounts below, including petrochemicals.
All of Panama's main export commodities are foods, including bananas (19%), fish (18%), shrimp (10%), sugar (2.6%), and coffee (2.1%).
In 2000 Panama's imports were distributed among the following categories:
Principal trading partners in 2000 (in millions of US dollars) were as follows: