The European Union (E.U.) ambassador to Colombia said on Thursday that the number of Colombian goods exported to the E.U. was “shameful”.
According to newspaper El Espectador, Maria Antonia Van Gool said that “Colombian trade is missing many opportunities on the European continent [due to] a lack of knowledge of what the market needs.”
Speaking in Medellin at Colombia’s textile fair, Colombiatex, Van Gool harshly critiqued the performance of Colombia’s exporters, claiming that the number of Colombian goods on European shelves was “shameful, as if they do not exist.”
BACKGROUND: Colombiatex fair opens
With Colombia’s congress expected to ratify the free trade agreement (FTA) with the E.U. early this year, such proclamations could be interpreted as a tough love measure from Van Gool, a reminder that markets need to be researched and understood before they can be taken advantage of.
In light of the latest figures from Colombia’s national bureau of statistics (DANE), the E.U. ambassador may have a point. The only European country that received a significant percentage of Colombia’s exports in November of 2012 was Spain, with 3.4%. For comparison, the United States received 33.6%, while large European export markets such as Germany and France were absent from the list.
To address the issue, Van Gool advised exporters and the Colombian government to send trade delegations to Europe to profile consumers and identify their needs.
“There is a large variety of Colombian products that should win space on European shelves — coffee, tea, organic beauty products — however they must be offered in an appealing way,” said the E.U. ambassador.
The European Union ratified the FTA with Colombia in November of 2012, however, with the Colombian congress not set to resume debate over the agreement until March of 2013, it may not come into effect until later this year.
Background: Europe urges Colombia to speed up FTA