Colombia’s trade minister told business newspaper La Republica that recently-started talks on initiating a free trade agreement with Singapore could clear the path to Colombia’s membership of the APEC Pacific Rim trading bloc.
Colombia qualifies for membership of the bloc on geographic grounds, with its 1,300 kilometres of Pacific coastline, but has been unsuccessfully trying to join since the 1990s. Members of the group include the United States, China, Japan, Mexico, Russia, South Korea and Australia.
Theoretically the 21 members are working towards creating a giant common market similar to the European Union, with over 2 billion people and more than half of the world’s GDP, which would make it one of the world’s most powerful international clubs.
Sergio Diaz-Granados praised Singapore for developing into a “world leading economy” through actions such as streamlining bureaucracy. He added that he expected an agreement to be implemented in 2012 or 2013 to open a new market for Colombian exporters of raw materials and produce, in the shape of Singapore’s high-tech service economy, which enjoys a GDP per capita over five times greater than Colombia’s.
Singapore is one of many countries with which Colombia aims to seal a free-trade pact in the coming years. A treaty with Canada is on the brink of passing, pending the approval of the Colombian Constitutional Court, while the government is hoping that the United States will decide to approve its own Colombian free trade deal that has been kept on the shelf by Congress for four years due to concern at the human rights situation in Colombia. Diaz-Granados also enthused about the chances of starting discussions on a pact with Turkey, a country he said is an important geographic “bridge” and “an economy known for its potential,” while agreements to protect investment with China and India are already past the planning stage.