Colombia’s finance minister on Tuesday met with his Venezuelan counterpart in Caracas to discuss Venezuela’s debt to Colombian exporters and smuggling.
Minister Mauricio Cardenas and his Venezuelan counterpart Nelson Merentes discussed the countries’ bilateral economic relations, as well as payment mechanisms for current debt in order to further trade between the two countries.
“We can work in parallel with the issue of debt on the one hand, but also new payment mechanisms to ensure an increase in exports,” explained Cardenas.
“We want to accelerate and expedite payments to exporters, because there are so many Colombian products that could be in the supermarkets at this time that are instead in warehouses in Venezuela, and quite simply, we have to ensure a payment mechanism” added the finance minister.
Following a row with then-presidents Alvaro Uribe in 2010, the late President Hugo Chavez froze Venezuela’s imports from Colombia and suspended the payments of outstanding debts to Colombian exporters. Following the resumption of relations subsequent to assuming power of current President Juan Manuel Santos, Venezuela slowly began paying off the debt.
Apart from the debt, Cardenas said the two countries will increase cooperation to combat smuggling between the border.
“The smuggling of Venezuelan products, or products imported to Venezuela that pass through the border and go toward Colombia, are of no benefit to either of the two countries. That is why we want to make a joint effort to combat this phenomenon, because smuggling has a fiscal cost to Venezuela and Colombia that generates damage to employers,” explained Cardenas.
Santos recently met with Chavez’s successor, Nicolas Maduro, in an effort to build relations following recent tension between the two nations.
“We were one country, now we are two. But in many ways we can work as if we are one country,” said Santos.