Colombian Trade Minister Luis Guillermo Plata Wednesday urged the
Venezuelan government’s currency administrator, Cadivi, to authorize
payments worth $275 million to Colombian exporters.
“We are talking about debts of more than one year to about 180
days,”Plata told Dow Jones Newswires on the sidelines of an event in
Bogota. “This is not a phenomenon affecting only Colombia.”
Venezuela enforces strict currency market controls and pegs its bolivar to the dollar at VEB2.15 per greenback.
Venezuelan companies that want to buy dollars at that rate must
receive approval from the Cadivi, whose supply of them routinely falls
well short of demand.
Recently, Peruvian textile exporters claimed Cadivi owes them $500
million, while Ecuadorean exporters said Cadivi is delaying about $140
million in payments.
Colombian exports of leather goods, such as bags, plunged 92% in
the first quarter of the year to $832,000 from $10.6 million in the
same period last year because of Cadivi’s delays, said Luis Flores,
director of the Colombian association of leather good producers.
“Exports of manufactured leather goods have dropped dramatically
because Cadivi recently decided to give priority to other products such
as drugs and food,” Flores said.
The Colombian government doesn’t plan to take retaliatory actions against Venezuela.
The problem may become more serious as Venezuelan President Hugo
Chavez Monday said his government may review ties with Bogota following
the Colombian government’s decision to allow U.S. troops to be
stationed at military bases in Colombia.
Chavez, a firebrand socialist, and his Colombian counterpart, conservative Alvaro Uribe, have often had strained relations.
“Political difficulties have existed in the past but so far nothing has happened. Trade is dynamic,” Plata said.
Colombia is a key supplier of food, textiles and other manufactured
products to Venezuela. Despite the diplomatic spats, Colombia’s exports
to Venezuela rose to $6.09 billion in 2008, from $5.21 billion in 2007.
Colombian exports to Venezuela totaled $2.24 billion in the first
five months of the year, down 1% from the same period last year,
according to the most recent figures from the country’s statistics
The drop is partly explained by Venezuela’s prohibition of Colombian car imports.
Chavez’s government has said it will authorize Colombian car
assemblers to sell 10,000 vehicles in Venezuela this year, but the
resolution authorizing car imports hasn’t been issued yet, Plata said.
“Not a single [Colombian] car has been exported so far this year to Venezuela,” Plata said.
Venezuela’s 2009 import quota for Colombian vehicles, if approved,
would be substantially lower than the 22,500 quota granted in 2008 and
the 45,000 quota in 2007. (Dow Jones)