Despite facing surgery on Wednesday, Santos travelled to Peru’s capital Lima Monday night in search of economic ties, trade and investment at the third ASPA, a summit of South American and Arab Countries’ heads of state taking place on October 1 and 2. The aims of the 34-nation summit are to strengthen commercial ties and political relations among the member states.
Santos hopes to engage expertise and funding from countries like Qatar and the United Arab Emirates who have already collaborated on gas and oil projects in Argentina and the Dominican Republic. Trade between the two regions has nearly tripled from $11 billion in 2004 to $30 billion in 2008 after the ASPA was founded on the initiative of former Brazilian president Lula da Silva in 2004.
Colombia also wants to begin discussions on aviation, renewable energy and tourism infrastructure agreements with the Arab countries, while Saudi Arabia has expressed interest in building two new Four Seasons Hotels in Bogota and Cartagena.
Colombia has been investing in relations with the Arab League for a number of years now. In 2011 the South American country opened an embassy in the United Arab States, and has permanent diplomatic envoys in Egypt and Lebanon, and intends to shortly have representation in Algeria.
The first ASPA summit was held in Brazil in 2007 and the second in Qatar in 2009. Peru’s government has declared a holiday for the 1st and 2nd of October to celebrate the importance of the event and to ensure security for the 400 Arab and South American businessmen who are expected to attend this year’s summit.