China is interested in signing a free trade agreement (FTA) with Colombia as soon as possible, according to an official from the Chinese Embassy in Bogota, Colombian newspaper La Republica reported Friday.
Wang Jian, the political counsellor for the Chinese Embassy, expressed his country’s interest in negotiating an FTA, during a Friday conference, “Doing business with China,” organized by La Republica and Esse Consultores.
“China is very open to an FTA with Colombia, we have no conditions, but the ball is in Colombia’s court,” the official said, explaining that one of the factors preventing FTA negotiations from moving forward is concern on Colombia’s side that the deal would be harmful, as the South American country’s economy wouldn’t be able to compete with cheap Chinese products.
“These hypotheses fall when you look at similar economies to yours [Colombia’s], like Peru’s and Chile’s, who we have FTAs with, and Costa Rica, who we are negotiating one with.”
Juan Carlos Mondragon, an advisor in Colombia’s Trade Ministry, agreed with the Chinese official that an FTA could benefit his country, saying that if Colombia could “focus on certain regions with specific products, it could sell to China.”
Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping said Thursday that his country is “willing to work with Colombia to push forward bilateral ties.”
Xi’s remarks came after a meeting with Colombian Vice President Francisco Santos, who was in China to attend the 2010 World Expo opening ceremony.
Earlier this month, President Alvaro Uribe demonstrated his enthusiasm about an FTA with China, saying that, “In the short term, China may seem like a threat to Colombia in trade due to its great competitiveness, particularly in manufacturing and product prices. But in the long term, China is a great opportunity for Colombia.”
China has recently emerged as an important destination for Colombian goods, receiving 6.8% of their total exports.
Colombia’s increased trade with China comes as part of its economic strategy of diversifying export markets, after losing their main export market, Venezuela, due to deteriorating political relationships between the two countries.
Colombian exports to China jumped nearly 500% in the first two months of 2010 compared with the same period the previous year; reaching $396.8 million in January and February, compared to $67.2 million in 2009.
Colombia’s main export products to China include petroleum (43%), ferronickel (36%), metallurgy (13%), and various chemicals (3%).