To continue to fortify the economic and business relationship between both countries, the U.S.-Colombia Business Council emerges as the perfect scenario to increasing commercial activity.
By: U.S. Chamber of Commerce
Published in Amcham Colombia Business Express, available here
Colombia and the United States share more than a commitmentto democracy, open markets, and regional stability. They have developed an important strategic partnership forged through the security cooperation of Plan Colombia and commercial ties strengthened through a bilateral free trade agreement (FTA). The fact that Vice President Joe Biden traveled to Colombia in his final weeks in office, and both President Trump and Vice President Pence have spoken with President Santos in their first weeks in office speaks volumes about the U.S.-Colombia relationship.
Given the strategic focus on this partnership and the peace efforts ongoing in Colombia, the work of AmCham Colombia and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is more important than ever. In recognition of this, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is establishing a U.S.-Colombia Business Council this month. It will be the Chamber’s 14th bilateral council, joining countries like Japan, Brazil, India, Turkey and most recently, the United Kingdom, with this distinction. The Council aims to foster the strongest possible economic and business relationship between the United States and Colombia, and like the goals of the FTA itself, to expand trade and promote economic growth in both countries.
The creation of the new U.S.-Colombia Business Council emerges from a year of discussions that AmCham Colombia and the Chamber have fostered between the private sector and the governments on increasing commercial activity between the countries, including two high-level dialogues with President Juan Manuel Santos. During his February 2016 visit to the Chamber, as he welcomed the announcement of a bilateral advisory forum in Cartagena, which paved the way for the new Council, President Santos celebrated the U.S. business community, saying it “helped Colombia become the fastest-growing economy in South America.”
In December, the Chamber, AmCham Colombia, ANDI, and the Embassy of Colombia collaborated to organize the bilateral advisory forum in Cartagena, where U.S and Colombian CEOs met with President Santos, Vice President Joe Biden, and the Ministers of Trade, Foreign Affairs, Finance and Public Credit, and Mining and Energy to discuss the bilateral economic relationship. The forum featured a series of plenary and roundtable discussions where participants discussed investor perceptions of Colombia, key challenges and opportunities in the Colombian market, and ways to maximize the U.S.-Colombia relationship through robust FTA implementation. The leaders of all five AmCham Colombia branches participated in the event, and Camilo Reyes, Executive Director of AmCham Colombia, addressed the opening plenary. The CEOs also highlighted the importance of innovation in key sectors like ICT and energy, as well as the need to prioritize education and infrastructure in Colombia’s post-conflict rebuilding.
The themes of the forum and the momentum from these discussions, supported by a memorandum of understanding signed by the Chamber and ANDI, define the focus for the new Council and laid the foundation for increased collaboration to address these issues. Executives expressed support for a program of work that focuses on trade and investment, energy and mining, health, ICT and education, and these sectors will be the initial focus of the Council’s policy recommendations. Since the beginning of the year, the Chamber and AmCham Colombia have already hosted meetings in Washington, DC with Vice Minister of Foreign Trade, Javier Gamboa, Technical Director, Hector Castro from the Ministry of Health, and Education Minister Yaneth Giha to begin working in these areas.
On May 18th, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, AmCham Colombia and ANDI hosted the second binational business summit in Washington, D.C., that provided insights to both governments on what it takes to grow and compete in the global economy. Furthermore, the group discussed the progress that has been made in the five years since the FTA was signed and engaged with senior officials of the U.S. administration on the next steps for strengthening the U.S.-Colombia strategic relationship.