A group of 104 U.S. industrialists is set to arrive in Colombia Monday for a tour of the country’s cities and industrial areas to strengthen ties and promote trade, reports Caracol.
The U.S. commercial representative in Colombia, Margaret Hanson, said that the delegation of U.S. businesspeople will congratulate new Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, and emphasize the importance of bilateral trade between the two countries, especially that which passes through Miami.
Hanson said that the group would also seek to build new relationships and find partners in Colombia’s industrial sector who are interested in import-export agreements.
The group will visit Bogota, where they will hold meetings with the Bogota Chamber of Commerce and the Ministry of Commerce, before heading on to Cali, Medellin, Barranquilla, the coffee region, and other key industrial areas of the country before returning home on 14 August.
Hanson also expressed a desire to see the stalled free trade agreement (FTA) between Colombia and the U.S. ratified.
“I am full of expectations and excitement in trying to help lift the FTA for Colombia (…) in terms of common sense, it is something that should happen and we hope that it will next year,” Hanson said.
Colombia’s new ambassador to the U.S., Gabriel Silva, said that one of his first tasks in his new post will be to kick-start the FTA talks.
“Colombia is a country which sees itself as an economic force in the medium term […] Colombia’s exports are worth $40 billion,” Silva said.
The bilateral treaty, which involves the reduction of customs duties and other obstacles to trade, was signed by Colombian President Alvaro Uribe and former U.S. President George Bush in 2006. While Colombia’s Congress was quick to pass the treaty, U.S. Congress is yet to ratify it.
The Bush administration submitted the agreement to Congress in April 2007, but it was not rubber-stamped before the end of the congressional session in December 2008.
During his presidential election campaign, Barack Obama opposed approving a trade deal with the Andean nation while crimes against Colombian trade-union leaders remain unprosecuted. As president, Obama has expressed a willingness to push the deal through, provided that Colombia meets certain human rights conditions. Recently however, Obama has promised swifter progress.