“Colombia is currently developing infrastructure projects under the model of Public Private Partnership and we are encouraging engineering and construction companies from Korea to invest in the infrastructure sector of Colombia.” So said Ambassador Tito Saul Pinilla of Colombia at a recent inrterview with The Korea Post conducted on the occasion of the New Year. Details of the interview follow:
Question: Any promotional plans for further development of relations between Korea and your Country, including the possible dispatch of an economic delegation to Korea?
Answer: In 2017 we planned to organize and attend meetings to strengthen the bilateral relation and activities to promote trade and investment. The more relevant are:
We planned the visit of our Minister of Foreign Relations Ms. Maria Angela Holguin to the FEALAC Ministerial Meeting to be held in March in Seoul. This is a relevant fora for multilateral cooperation among Latin American and Asian countries.
Secondly, we will bring to Korea Mr. Felipe Jaramillo President of PROCOLOMBIA the Colombian export promotion and investment agency during the first half of 2017 leading a group of companies interested in the Korean market.
Third, we expect to set hopefully in Korea the first meeting of the Joint Commission that is the bilateral mechanism design to supervise the implementation of our trade agreement that entry into force past July 15th. The Joint Commission will consider ways to further enhance trade relations between both countries and assess the outcomes of the application of this agreement.
In the area of export promotion we planned to attend Seoul Food in May 16th to 19th, Goyang International Horticulture to be held in April 28th to May 14th and the Seoul the Café Show in November 2017.
Interested in attracting Korean investment to Colombia we will organize an entrepreneurial mission to attend Seoul Motor Show set in March 30th to April 9th. Finally, we will attend the Smart Cities Innovation Summit Asia to be held from September 13th to 15th.
Q: What are the major New Year developments plans of your esteemed country in the New Year in economic and political fields?
A: Colombia has reached a peace agreement ending Colombia’s half-century-long conflict that is expected to bring many benefits to the country, including improved rule of law, security, and increased investment. The end of the conflict with this armed group and the improved business environment has the potential to open a number of new opportunities for to Korean companies.
This peace agreement has already been considered the most complete of all to date in the world, as it includes victims, the military, the land issue, drug trafficking, international support, disarmament and a transitional justice system, trying to find the balance between necessary reforms but respecting the political and economic regime of the country.
The legislative agenda for 2017 is determined by the process to approve the bills and constitutional reform necessary to bring to life what was agreed in Havana with the FARC, the first of which relates to amnesty, pardon and criminal prosecution Special for the old guerrillas.
One of the areas under negotiation as part of the peace process was comprehensive agricultural development. Therefore, a number of large agricultural development projects are planned as part of the government’s post-conflict strategy. The goal is to increase the production and open new markets to these goods that have the potential to improve the standard of living for about 20 percent of the Colombian population that lives in rural areas affected by war.
But agriculture in Colombia offers also opportunities for Korean investors in areas such as commercialization of family farming, increased agricultural productivity at small scale farms, and development of irrigation districts. Furthermore, Colombian countryside is said to become one of the world´s largest producer of fruits and vegetables and will feed a suitable part of the global community. We expect to send some of these agro industrial goods to the Korean market taking advantage of our bilateral agreement that entry into force in July 15th.
Q: In what areas are the areas of economy where Korean companies are welcome in your country? Do you have any specific Korean business organizations in mind favorably considered for economic cooperation with your country?
A: Besides those opportunities related to agro business mentioned above there are other areas in which Korean investors may find opportunities in Colombia such as infrastructure like roads, airports, aqueducts, schools, hospitals, telecommunications infrastructure, and connectivity.
Moreover, the Government of Colombia is currently developing infrastructure projects under the model of Public Private Partnership. Through this figure, the construction of Fourth Generation Highways (4G), the modernization and expansion of airports, railway rehabilitation and the navigability of the Magdalena River are going to be carried out. That is why we are encouraging engineering and construction companies from Korea to invest in the infrastructure sector of Colombia. Additionally, projects of new and renewable energy are going to take place to fulfill the national plan of grid expansion.
In the last years Colombia has been becoming the center of operations of foreign companies due to the good business climate, the benefits of being an export platform for the region, the legal certainty and because is one of the largest markets in Latin America. Being part of the Pacific Alliance (comprised by Chile, Peru, Mexico and Colombia) also created a new amplified market in Latin America for Korean investors and signifies a platform to neighbor countries. Furthermore, Colombia is improving in areas such as human resources, logistics and air connectivity, which are basic elements to manage operations abroad. In this context, logistics like storage centers and regional distribution centers are a clear opportunity.
That is why we see opportunities of investment for Korean companies in a lot of industries but we are focusing in special ones like the automotive, which lately has been having a lot of movement in the region in order to consolidate cross border value chains. And industries like cosmetics, pharmaceutical and IT are also being taken into account.
Finally, we are expecting also a boom on tourism in which opportunities are open like the development of rural tourism and ecotourism.
We are expecting to work even more closely with KOTRA, KITA, KOIMA and KOEXIMA among other relevant public or private Korean entities interested on promoting trade, investment and tourism. Even though there are many areas in which we already have relevant ongoing projects we are sure that the Cooperation Chapter included in the trade Agreement is a renovated framework for bilateral cooperation. This chapter is aimed to strengthen mutual cooperation that contributes to the implementation and better use of this trade agreement, in order to optimize its results, expand opportunities, and maximize the benefits for both countries.