Colombia’s Trade Minister admitted Wednesday it would be difficult
finding alternative export markets if Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez
decides to stick to his decision to suspend trade amid a row over
alleged Venezuelan support for Colombian guerrilla group FARC.
Trade Minister Luis Guillermo Plata told newspaper El Tiempo Colombian exporters, considering the recent developments, “need to move forward” and “look out for other markets.”
Plata said it is not the first time Chavez threatens to close the border, but that so far trade with Colombia’s most important trading partner in Latin America has been growing.
However, “we need to continue making an effort to find markets,” the Minister said. “There are other markets, other partners.”
The Minister advised local entrepreneurs to primarily try to find export markets in Central America and the Caribbean, where Colombia made some free trade pacts in the past years, but should also try to seek expansion in the U.S., Canada and Europe.
Colombian exporters say the closing of the Venezuelan market would be “fatal” to both the Colombian and the Venezuelan economy. Javier Diaz, chairman of the Colombian association of exporters, denies that the closing of the border never affected exporters.
“The suspended the import of and we haven’t recuperated from that, they suspended the import of poultry and we haven’t recuperated from that,” the chairman told W Radio.
The value of Colombian peso, until Tuesday the biggest concern of Colombian exporters, went down nearly two percent early Wednesday morning as traders fear a decline in trade will affect the economy.
Plata is the first Colombian government official to respond to Venezuela’s freezing of diplomatic ties and threats to suspend trade. Spokespersons at Colombia’s Foreign Ministry told press Tuesday that both President Alvaro Uribe and Foreign Minister Jaime Bermudez were on foreign trips and were not going to respond until arrival in Colombia.