Business, trade and investment will top President Juan Manuel Santos’ agenda when the Colombian leader travels to Brazil for his first official visit.
Santos will meet with Brazilian President Lula da Silva in Brasilia Tuesday to discuss increasing Colombian exports to Brazil. Trade between the two South American nations amounts to $2.6 billion a year.
“Because of Brazil’s importance in the region, it was a priority that there be a first conversation between the Presidents Lula da Silva and Juan Manuel Santos,” said Colombian Foreign Minister Maria Angela Holguin.
“We want to get closer to Brazil, that the two presidents get to know each other. So there needs to be lots of personal meetings. The idea is that there be a first meeting where they get to know each other and they can clarify their understanding of the region,” continued Holguin, who will accompany Santos on his trip, along with Colombian Trade, Industry and Tourism Minister Sergio Diaz Granados and Proexport Director Maria Claudia Lacouture.
Diaz said that he will be seeking a define a road map for the increase of exports to Brazil.
“We want to see what products and services they want, how they want them and over what time period, in order to even out the balance of trade,” Diaz said. In the first half of 2010, Colombia only sold $450 million of products to Brazil out of the total of $1.55 billion worth in trade between the two countries.
Diaz said that another objective of the Colombian delegation to Brazil will be to seek greater access to Brazilian markets, including increased exportation of Colombian confectionery and overcoming health regulations that impede the exportation of Colombian agricultural products to Brazil.
Brazil’s ambassador in Colombia, Valdemar Carneiro Leao, said the visit indicates a reciprocal interest in expanding bilateral trade. He revealed that Santos and Lula will sign eight agreements during the Colombia leader’s visit. One of the agreements will permit inhabitants of the Amazon towns of Leticia and Tabatinga to work or study on either side of the border without restrictions.
Santos will also meet with Brazilian presidential candidates, one of whom will succeed Lula as Brazilian president when the country goes to the polls on October 3.
On Thursday Santos will travel to Sao Paolo to meet with Brazilian businessmen and promote Brazilian investment in Colombia.
Colombia and Brazil have an amiable relationship, with Lula offering to mediate the diplomatic crisis that unfolded between Colombia and Venezuela in July.