Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and his Venezuelan counterpart Hugo Chavez have agreed to push forward a new bilateral trade agreement, said a statement released on Colombia’s presidential website Thursday.
The agreement, a further sign of growing closesness between the two nations, includes plans to for joint infrastructure and production of agricultural products.
The announcement came following meetings between the two leaders in Havana, Cuba, Wednesday, with Santos also expressing satisfaction at Chavez’s good spirits and health.
It is the latest step in the recovery of Colombia-Venezuela trade relations, with Santos and Chavez announcing the bilateral lifting of tariffs on 3,500 products last November and Venezuela opening its market to Colombian cattle and frozen meat last month.
Trade difficulties between the two countries began in 2009 when Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez ordered the suspension of imports from Colombia in retaliation for its neighbor signing a military agreement with the United States. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez eventually broke off all diplomatic relations in 2010 after then-Colombian President Alvaro Uribe accused Venezuela of sheltering FARC leaders.
After the U.S., Venezuela has traditionally been the second-most important market for Colombian exporters. Colombia’s current president Juan Manuel Santos has worked to restore relations with Chavez and trade levels have been slowly recovering.
Santos said that foreign ministers had been discussing the terms of the agreement with Venezuela, and had already signed initial papers.
Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro will travel to Colombia next week in order to advance proceedings.
The Colombian head of state said he wished to make navigable the Meta river, which flows into the Orinoco in Venezuela in order to facilitate the transportation of products from the Meta region.