The following are excerpts from an interview with Ambassador Juan Pablo Rodriguez Barragan of Colombia in Seoul.—Ed.
Question: What are the most important and other major policies of your country in the New Year?
Answer: At the end of 2018, the Colombian National Congress approved what the Government has denominated “Ley de Financiamiento” (in English “Financing Law”), to provide new incentives to strategic industries for the development and economic growth of Colombia. For instance, one of the key policies of President Mr. Ivan Duque is the development of what he calls Orange Economy, which basically is any activity related with intellectual property and/or knowledge, such as ICT, Software, Gaming, Health, Tourism, Culture, among others. For that industry, this law considers an income tax exemption for new companies in these fields.
Another strategic industry for Colombia is agribusiness. With more than 20 million hectares available for new crops and with ideal environment conditions that allow to harvest all year around, Colombia is called to become a global provider of food, following the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Then, this law guarantees that new agribusiness project in Colombia won´t pay any income tax in the first ten years, allowing new crops to grow and generate revenues.
In addition, tourism becomes a highly relevant sector too. Currently, it has become the second source of foreign dividends after the oil sector. The growth rate of foreign visitors has been larger than 10% in the recent years, overcoming the 4 million visitors per year.
Therefore, this law includes incentives for the development of new tourism infrastructure such as: hotels, water docks, theme parks, and agritourism projects.
Finally, it provides important tax incentives for Mega – Projects in any sectors. The purpose of these incentives is to attract anchor companies at global level, in order to develop industries such as petrochemical and automotive, among others. These mega projects must have an investment larger than USD 343 million and generate more than 250 direct jobs.
Q: What are the major areas of cooperation between your country and Korea in the New Year?
A: The cooperation between Colombia and Korea, raised to the level of "Strategic Cooperation Partnership", allowing to enhance and improve the bilateral relations. As a result of this partnership strategy, four axes of cooperation have been agreed: Regional Development, Transport, Industrial Development and Post-Conflict.
In the area of Regional Development, the main purpose is to support the agricultural productivity, improve the quality of life and to support the development of social and economic infrastructures to address urban poverty.
In the case of Transport, the purposes are to promote multimodal and intermodal transport to increase productivity and competitiveness and to create sustainable models of public transportation.
In the area of Industrial Development the objective is to improve productivity, industrial competitiveness and innovation capacity of SMEs and entrepreneurs. Also to promote the development of Science, Technology and Innovation Parks and the management of public policies on Science, Technology and Innovation.
In the area of Post Conflict the aim is to support the public infrastructure, including secondary and tertiary roads and strengthen the reintegration process that contributes to peace and reconciliation, also to promote efficiency, transparency and accountability in public administration.
Also, the Government of Colombia has been working on strengthen areas such as ICT, health and auto parts. In the area of ICT, Colombia and Korea have been working in the 'Cooperation Program for the Development of ICT' during the 2018-2020 period, with the aim of developing new components of their digital ecosystems and refine research methods in the technological and scientific areas. Regarding the area of Health, is relevant to learn the Korean experience about the use of data for the designing and implementation of health policies through information systems. In the case of the auto parts sector, the Korea Automotive Technology Institute – KATECH is supporting a project in Colombia with the purpose of strengthening the capabilities of medium companies in order to offer auto parts design services that allow global industry standards.
Q: What is the volume of bilateral trade, its outlook in the next months?
A: Between 2015 and 2018, Colombian exports have grown 149%, passing from USD 229 million, to USD 571 million. Although these exports have been influenced by the export of naturals resources such as coal, the non-traditional exports present a growth close to 10%, which is still modest, considering that both countries already have a free trade agreement in force.
If we don’t count Colombian exports in coal, 50% are concentrated in agribusiness products, 41% metalworking, 6% chemical, and 3% other products. Therefore, we see a big scope to diversify this trade, especially with new agribusiness products. For this, we hope that the Korean authorities create more expeditious methods in their regulations to award phytosanitary protocols and control processes for agricultural products.
From the Korea side, that the total exports to Colombia reached USD 816 million, where the main products are vehicles and railway components (29%), electronic devices (14%) and plastics (13%).
Q: What are the competitive products and services attractive to Korea and What are Korean products and services that your county might wish to import from Korea?
A: Although coal is one of the natural resources that Korea imports most from Colombia, Coffee is indeed our flagship product in this country, importing nearly USD 80 Million. Nevertheless, we have started to see that imports in other food products are increasing, such as cocoa derivates and seafood. Moreover, flowers have had an impressive growth of almost 100% in the las two years, consolidating Colombia as the main provider of carnations and chrysanthemums in Korea, and second, taking into the account all fresh flowers. Finally, we also have seen a positive behavior in apparel business, such as products made of leather, underwear and functional clothing, which are opening market in Korea.
This year, 2019, will be the third year with a Free Trade Agreement between Colombia and Korea, and from the Embassy of Colombia in Korea, through our commercial office, ProColombia, we have identified opportunities to fully take advantage of this agreement. Mainly in processed food such as frozen, pulp and dried fruits; fresh fruits such as banana, pineapple, and yellow pithayas; confectionary, raw sugar, preserve flowers, natural ingredients, natural juices, underwear, preserve flowers, among others.
Regarding services, due the ICT infrastructure that Colombia has, with 96% of its municipalities connected with optical fiber, and the country itself connected to the with World through eleven submarine cables, is an ideal hub to provide ICT services in the region. Therefore, we have seen a potential for Korean companies to use voice services or translation services to expand their market to the Americas. For example, the opportunities that Korean TV series can be translated in Spanish and English in Colombia to be distribute in the whole region. Additionally, art and design services, to customize its product to the region, for instance westernize arts of a video game company, so it can be more appeal to the Latin American customer.
Q: What are the areas in your country where you want Korean companies to invest and what are the areas where you wish your businessmen to invest in Korea?
A: I do believe our economies complement each other. While Korea is topnotch in sectors such Infrastructure, Energy and ICT; Colombia is positioning as one of the top food providers in the World, and with an enormous biodiversity to explore.
I am sure that in this year will witness the investment of Korean companies in sectors such infrastructure and energy. Currently, Colombia has an important portfolio of infrastructure projects and I am confident that Korean companies will actively participate in those public bids. Just to mention some of opportunities, we have USD 5,6 billion to refurbish, expand and modernize 31 airports; 13 fluvial projects valued at USD 2,9 billion; USD 17 billion projects in vial infrastructure; and USD 3,3 billion for the railway network.
Additionally, the Government authorities are planning 546 new energy generation projects. Some of them in conventional Energy such as thermal and hydro, but many of them based in solar, wind and biomass. During 2019, we had the first energy auction that will include alternative energies.
Colombia also presents opportunities in other sectors such as agribusiness, health and ICT. In Agribusiness, as I mentioned before the country has approx. 20 million hectares to develop new crops, this is equivalent at two times the area of South Korea, area with best environmental conditions and with opportunities to guarantee food safety. Regarding health, I expect to see new Korean companies expanding their footprint in Latin America, and for that Colombia offers great conditions to establish regional offices, as well as, generate new research and development, taking advantage of the natural richness of Colombia with fifty thousand kinds of plants, which seventeen thousand are endemic, resources that could be used for the pharmaceutical and cosmetic industry. Finally, opportunities such as Data Centers, establishment of IT operations in different verticals and to develop co-productions adding the human talent that can be found in the two countries.
Q: Who is your Korean Honorary Consul, and how are his/her services contributing to further promoting the relations, friendship and cooperation between the two countries?
A: Since 2017 Boryung Medience Co. serves as Colombia honorary consulate in Korea. Boryung supported the celebration of the Colombia National day in 2018. This event is an opportunity to share part of our culture, history and the highest quality of music, food of our country not only with the Colombian community living in Korea but also with the Korean authorities and Embassies in Seoul.
Q: Who is the head of the bilateral friendship organization with your country? How is he contributing to the promotion of bilateral cooperation?
A: The bilateral cooperation is promote at the Institutional level. In Colombia the cooperation programs are developed by the Colombian Presidential Agency for International Cooperation and by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Colombia (Cooperation Division).
The Head of the Presidential Agency for International Cooperation is Ms. Angela Mercedes Ospina. The Head of the International Cooperation Division at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Colombia is the Minister Plenipotentiary Ms. Marcela Ordoñez.
The bilateral cooperation between the two countries is made through the Country Partnership Program Korea-Colombia and currently has the following projects:
1. Consolidating Peace in Colombia by Supporting Durable Solutions for Victims of Forced Displacement
2. Strengthening Women's Economic Empowerment and Rights in Colombia's Conflict-affected Areas
3. Strengthening of Market Competitiveness for Colombian Fruits and Vegetables
4. Strengthening of Air Quality Surveillance Systems and of Institutional and Technical Capabilities for the Air Quality Management in Colombia
5. Project for the Cluster-centered Development of Micro-Small and Medium Enterprises and the enhancement of the Competitiveness and Innovation Policies in Colombia
6. Strengthening the Competitiveness of the Colombian Automotive Parts Industry
Q: Who are the most prominent Korean or Koreans who made the largest contribution to the bilateral cooperation last year?
A: The cooperation between the two countries is made through institutional and political level. This kind of cooperation is not made by the action of a personal contributor but through the bilateral consultations made by the high representatives during meetings held in Seoul or Bogota.
Q: What are the attractive tourist destinations of your country?
A: Colombia offers several top tourism destinations highlighted for the main tourism magazines and companies in World. Thanks to its location with beaches at both the Pacific and Caribbean sea; with three mountain ranges that provide snow mountains across the country, and one of them considered the tallest mountain in front of the sea, which has indigenous communities living with their own traditions and customs, among other natural wonders. I would like to highlight three destinations and focus in three activities for the Korean travelers.
First, will be Cartagena, considered a unique city and one the most beautiful in Latin America. Full of history with its colonial street, surrounded by walls of more than 500 years, with outstanding international gastronomy, luxury stores and amazing nightlife. Second, will be the coffee region, with amazing landscapes such Cocora valley with several wax palms 60-meter-tall, hot springs mixed with natural waterfalls, and indeed coffee plantation where visitors can experience the whole process of the best coffee of the World. And Finally, caño cristales river, which is a river that contains plants of several colors, so you will be able to enjoy a river with blues, reds, purples, yellows, greens, mixed like un surrealistic painting.
These destinations are ideal for honey mooner couples that are looking for exotic and unique destinations, as these places are romantic and unique. Also, Colombia is consolidating itself as trekking country with impressive routes, in rivers such as Caño Cristales and what we call the lost city route, which basically visitors can walk through a mountain where will find different rivers to swim, interact with indigenous communities, and finally get to an indigenous city that never was found by the Spaniard colonizers (from there the name of Lost city). Finally, Colombia landscapes are ideal to do route cycling. Not in vain, Colombia is famous worldwide by leading cyclists in Europe´s main competition such as the Tour of France, Giro di Italia and La Vuelta España.
Q: Please introduce in detail your President (or Prime Minister) who heads the Executive Branch of your Government?
A: IVÁN DUQUE-MÁRQUEZ:President of Colombia (2018-2022)
President Duque was born on 1 August 1976. He has a law degree from Sergio Arboleda University in Bogotá, majoring in philosophy and humanities. He is an expert in economic affairs, with executive studies in Harvard, a Masters Degree in public policy management from Georgetown and in economic law from the American University.
He has worked as a university professor. He was Head of the Culture, Creativity and Solidarity Affairs Division of the Inter-American Development bank (IDB), as a leader in issues of social innovation, entrepreneurship, youth and creative economics. He was a consultant to the President of IDB, and its Principal Adviser for Colombia.
As a Senator, he has led the passage of five laws: the “Ley Naranja” ("Orange Law"), which encourages the creative industries and culture as a driving force for development; the Law on Severance, which allows employees to use their severance funds to prepay the education of children and dependents; the Defibrillators Law, which makes it mandatory to install reanimation equipment in public places, and emergency transport across the country; the "B Enterprises" law, which provides conditions to create and develop commercial ventures for collective benefit and interest; and he is the co-author of the law extending maternity leave from 14 to 18 weeks.
He is the author of several books: IndignAcción, Ideas para la Colombia del Futuro, (“Ideas for the Colombia of the Future”) Pecados Monetarios (“Monetary Sins”); Efecto Naranja (“The Orange Effect”); “El Futuro está en el Centro” (“The Future is in the Center”); Arqueología de mi Padre“ (“Archaeology of my Father”) and has co-written “La Economía Naranja” (“The Orange Economy” with Felipe Buitrago.
In addition to his legislative activity, President Duque has distinguished himself in a number of areas of current political affairs. In 2016, he was voted as one of the country´s outstanding leaders by the magazine Semana, and the Fundación Colombia Líder; and for three years of his service as a Congressman, his own colleagues and a number of local organizations that appreciate and monitor the work of Colombia´s legislators voted him Best Senator.
The President is married to Maria Juliana Ruiz and they have three children: Luciana, Matías and Eloisa.
On 17 June 2018 Iván Duque was elected President for the constitutional period 2018-2022, with 10,398,689 votes. His program of government is based on Legality, Entrepreneurship and Equity.
Q: Please introduce yourself in detail to include your career, family and hobbies.
A: JUAN PABLO RODRIGUEZ BARRAGAN:
I began my tenure as Ambassador of the Republic of Colombia in the Republic of Korea on February 21, 2018. Prior to that, as former 4 Star General, I served as a Commander General of the Colombian Armed Forces.
I am an Engineer in civil and military works with a Master´s degree in Business Management from the University of La Sabana and a Master's degree in Defense and National Security from the Nueva Granada Military University in Bogotá, Colombia.
I have experience working in planning special and strategic operations, human talent management, logistics administration, unified action of the State, development of the peace process and implementation of transitional justice models as well as in negotiation techniques, crisis management, leadership skills in decision making and teamwork.
I have also served as a Professor at some universities such as the Javeriana University and the School of Military Engineers. I participated in the preparation of the book the Use of Explosives in Civil and Military Engineering Works which won the national prize of engineering "Diódoro Sánchez" in 1993 for having been the work that made the most important contribution to the technical part of national engineering.
I am married to Patricia Calderón Carmona and we have two daughters. My hobbies are doing sports, listening to music and reading books.
Q: Please add whatever other details that we might have left out from the questionnaire.
A: Presiden Iván Duque wants to strengthen the Colombian economy in non-traditional sectors in which the country has a high potential and to lessen the country’s dependence on natural resources. With the purpose to support the Orange economy was one of President Iván Duque’s key proposals during his campaign and the first 100 days of his administration.
Duque’s goal is to have the Orange Economy represent 10 percent of Colombia’s GDP, up from the 3.3 percent it makes up currently, putting it roughly on par with the manufacturing industry.
The creative economy is the sector whose goods and services are based on intellectual property, estimated to make up about 6 percent of the world’s GDP. The Orange Economy, for its part, comprises cultural industries in three categories such as traditional works for which there is often an artifact (books, newspapers, magazines, libraries, film, television, photography, radio), other works that are based more in experience (visual and performing arts, dance, opera, fashion, design, museums, architecture, gastronomy), and new works that tend to be digital or multimedia (video games, software, advertising, new media). Infrastructure in the creative industries can also include physical spaces such as plazas, commercial and community centers, parks, and stadiums, as well as virtual infrastructure like radio antennas, satellites, and fiber-optic networks.
Korea as a world leader in the creative industries may be an ideal partner to Colombia. The Korea successful experience promoting this sector through the commitment of both from government and private sector is an example to be share with Colombia.