Colombian businesses continue to suffer from trade restrictions implemented by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.
The restrictions, which aim to block Venezuelan imports of Colombian products, have caused Colombia’s exports to its neighbor to drop 77% between January 2009 and January 2010, Portofolio reported Thursday.
Colombian exporters complain that the Clhavez government is flagrantly violating its commitment to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), to which both countries are signatories, and using international trade as a political tool.
The president of the Colombia-Venezuelan Chamber of Commerce, Magdalena Pardo, criticized Venezuela for reneging on an agreement to let the Dominican Republic mediate, and saying that ties can only be repaired when Colombia elects a new government.
“The trade situation should not depend on who is the president in power, but on the insitutions that extend beyond the temperament of rulers. That is why you negotiate trade agreements, in order to guarantee the right of the people to freely trade, and protect commercial developments from political tensions,” Pardo said.
According to Portfolio, Venezuelan importers have built up an $800 million debt to Colombian exporters since the trade restrictions were put in place. Colombian exporters who continue selling to Venezuela now require immediate payment.
Javier Diaz, president of Analdex, the association of Colombian exporters, said Colombians have lost confidence that Venezuela will fulfill its debt obligations.
Diaz said that in order to regain confidence, Venezuela “must define how it will pay the $800 million, or, to use the phrase of the moment, ‘be a man’ and pay.”
Meanwhile, Colombia’s private sector is seeking new foreign markets in order to replace the lost trade with Venezuela, who was one of Colombia’s main trading partner prior to the restrictions.
According to Analdex, Colombia has been able to increase trade to new markets recently, including China, Holand, Italy, Denmark, Canada and Puerto Rico.