Despite having replaced nearly all of the country’s lost trade with Venezuela, Colombia continues to push hard to diversify and increase trade with new countries across the world.
Nubia Stella Martinez, the president of Proexport, a government organization responsible for promoting Colombian exports, tourism, foreign investment, and Colombian investments abroad, said in an interview with Portafolio on Saturday that her country’s strategy of diversification has helped them overcome the several billion dollars in lost trade with Venezuela,
“We have seen that diversification is a strategy that is working,” Martinez said.
Colombia’s push to find new markets abroad came as a result of an informal trade ban from its neighboring country, Venezuelan, which has led to a decrease of bilateral trade between the two countries by 73% in the first quarter of 2010.
According to Martinez, Proexport’s strategy for overcoming lost trade with Venezuela, finding new markets abroad, and growing existing ones, is based on segmenting the countries into three groups: “Markets we will maintain, markets that we will expand, and markets that we will study to gauge how prospective they are.”
The markets that Colombia will look to maintain and grow include Chile, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Peru, Panama, Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, which, as Martinez explained, are due to their geographic and cultural proximity to Colombia, in addition to the existence of many bilateral commercial agreements.
For these markets, Martinez went on, Proexport has organized for 181 Colombian companies to participate in 20 events that involve 480 international buyers in 2010.
As for the key markets that Proexport has pegged as “markets to grow”, Martinez listed the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Caribbean countries, and Spain, for which she claimed that they have arranged for 630 Colombian companies to participate in 67 events involving 1200 international buyers.
The markets that Proexport seek to further explore, according to Martinez, include Russia, China, the United Arab Emirates, Japan and India.
Martinez also went on to highlight that while Brazil has enormous potential for Colombia, Colombian companies have yet to fully take advantage of the opportunities it offers.
Martinez, however, expects trade to take off between the two countries shortly, especially following the appointment of Proexport’s former director Maria Elvira Pombo as Colombia’s ambassador to Brazil.
Martinez’s comments come after the president of Colombia’s National Business Association, Luis Carlos Villegas, announced in April that the country had successfully found new markets for almost $2 billion worth of products previously exported to Venezuela.
The director explained that foreign markets for Colombia’s mining materials and fossil fuels have grown significantly in the recent months, and that the sale of “non-traditional” exports to China, which he described as “very important,” have also been successful.