Colombia is looking to foreign investors to help the country improve its infrastructure after years of ambitious projects that were later abandoned, President Juan Manuel Santos told the Council of the Americas in New York on Thursday.
The country particularly needs to do more “south-south” business with other emerging economies, he told a luncheon audience: “Let’s start trading much more among the economies that are growing at a much higher rate.”
Looking to the developed world, Santos said he has high hopes that a free trade agreement with the European Union, which is in the approval pipeline, will be finalized by the first quarter of next year. He also said he is “optimistic” that the U.S. Congress will greenlight a similar agreement with the U.S. “by the middle of next month.”
The president pointed to new free trade agreements with Canada and Switzerland as examples of the kind of linkages his country needs. Colombia is also readying more partnerships, including tightening ties to Japan and Korea, with which he met last week, he said.
Santos, in town for the U.N. General Assembly meeting, pointed to several achievements during his first year in office, including constitutional reforms that aim to improve the country’s fiscal profile and an anti-corruption law. As a reward, he said, Colombia saw its credit ratings upgraded and carried out its largest-ever bond issue.
A debt swap carried out earlier this week, he said, was twelve times oversubscribed, indicating a high demand for Colombian paper.
The Colombian economy posted a strong second quarter performance, expanding 5.2% from a year earlier, government figures released Thursday showed. Although slightly lower than market expectations, that represents the highest quarterly economic expansion in three years, led by the key oil and mining sector, which expanded 10.3% in the quarter.