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CO23_EC_ProColombia Carmen Caballero

COLOMBIA - Economy

Carmen Caballero

President, ProColombia

Bio

International affairs expert, entrepreneur, and senior executive Carmen Cecilia Caballero Villa is the new president of ProColombia, the government agency responsible for attracting foreign investment and internationally promoting exports, tourism, and the Country Brand. For seven years, she was one of Colombia’s diplomats in Spain. As Consul General in Seville, she managed to strengthen commercial and cultural relations with the Spanish market, leading various bilateral partnerships focused on culture, migration, and tourism. She worked on the International Treaty on the Avoidance of Double Taxation and Prevention of Fiscal Evasion with the Kingdom of Spain and on activities to identify market and internationalization opportunities for companies. She is recognized for her participation in shareholders’ meetings and as secretary and president of the Consular Corps of Seville, Spain. As a businesswoman, she created and spent seven years managing Casa Imperial, a five-star hotel located in Seville’s historic center. She was head of the projects and interior design department of the autonomous community of Andalusia, where she led the restoration and conservation of luxury tourist establishments.

"I would highlight our work in promoting Colombia, which has created a change in the collective global mindset and projected the image of a country in transformation."
TBY talks to Carmen Caballero, President of ProColombia, about the country’s predicted annual growth, international relations, and sustainability.
Colombia’s forecasted growth is set at around 2% for 2023, a decline after the bounce back following the pandemic. How would you characterize ProColombia’s role in Colombia’s overall economy?

ProColombia plays a transcendental role in several action areas. First, I would highlight our work in promoting Colombia, which has created a change in the collective global mindset and projected the image of a country in transformation. Colombia strives to be seen as a world power for life, focusing on sustainability while incorporating technical progress, adapting technology, consolidating value chains, developing small and medium-sized enterprises, and working on capacity building efforts. Of course, this arises from being an economy open to foreign investment, which supports us in transforming Colombia. In addition to working on positioning Colombia, ProColombia—led by the Ministry of Trade, Industry, and Tourism—promotes non-mining and non-energy exports, working hard to open markets and provide support in tailoring what Colombia has to offer. In other words, we promote synergies by helping producers and service providers recognize what is in demand around the world. In terms of investment, ProColombia facilitates 70% of the non-mining non-energy FDI that enters the country. Today, we are firmly committed to attracting capital and projects to push for Colombia’s reindustrialization through productive investments, quality jobs, and the integration of Colombia’s most remote regions. And in the area of tourism, ProColombia strives to make Colombia a sustainable, attractive, and competitive destination for more international travelers and tourists—be it for a vacation, convention, or business trip. Currently, the tourism segment brings in the second-largest amount of foreign revenue to Colombia. We want to provide tourism options that make the most of our biodiversity and that include the Pacific, our island territories, the Amazon, La Guajira, the interior of the country, and the Caribbean coast.

Part of ProColombia’s objectives include ProColombia strengthening international relations that bring Colombia closer to new business opportunities. Where are you looking to bring new opportunities?

Our goal is to strengthen regional trade, under the leadership of the Ministry of Trade, Industry, and Tourism. Organizations such as ECLAC (Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean) and the IDB (Inter-American Development Bank) have published recent studies that emphasize the importance and growth potential of intraregional trade. According to these entities, exports among their member countries increased between 22% and 25% in 2022. In this regard, ECLAC indicated that the future of the manufacturing export sector is linked to the revitalization of intraregional trade, especially in South America. The analysis insists that a broad and stable market needs to be created, combining efficient scale with the minimization of transaction costs associated with cross-border productive integration. Likewise, the Latin American project as a whole has demonstrated its desire to accelerate economic integration by having a common currency or including new stakeholders—such as Ecuador—in a major trade bloc similar to the Pacific Alliance. Here at ProColombia, we are supporting the country’s energy transition and the strengthening of intraregional trade among countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, where Colombia is the most powerful geo-economic player.

In 2021, in light of the impact of the pandemic, ProColombia implemented an economic reactivation plan for Colombia’s non-mining exports. How did this plan progress in 2022 and how do things stand for the medium-term future?

2022 was a very positive year for Colombia’s non-mining exports. According to DANE (National Department of Statistics), approximately 7,700 companies from 29 Colombian departments exported USD21.608 billion—an increase of 19% compared to 2021—reaching 191 destinations. We would like to highlight agricultural exports, which contributed more than USD11.4 billion, followed by chemicals and life sciences (US $4.57 billion), manufacturing (USD4.472 billion), and apparel (USD1.052 billion). To continue moving forward in 2023, we have created the following roadmap, summarized in five pillars: export promotion of MSMEs; more regions contributing to non-mining and non-energy exports (with special focus on PDET[1] areas and municipalities with less than 200,000 inhabitants); more sales to Latin America and the Caribbean; more goods and services with added value abroad; and support for certain populations, such as women, youth, LGBTIQ+, as well as ethnic, indigenous, and reintegrated groups.

As sustainability is one of the main themes of our publication, how do you characterize what sustainable FDI means in practice?

First, it means a government-issued mandate; second, it means a commitment to Colombia, the planet, and future generations. It is a conviction that is realized through comprehensive and sustainable development in Colombia. This contributes to economic growth, reducing inequality, gender equity, and finally, to building lasting peace and positioning Colombia as a world power for life. This is consolidated by implementing the Investment for Sustainable Development strategy that provides a roadmap for establishing Colombia as a sustainable business center in Latin America. We are implementing a strategy to attract investment for sustainable development, which aims to attract projects with environmental, social, and governance (ESG) components—contributing to the energy transition towards increasingly clean energy—as well as impact investments that generate financial returns while simultaneously and significantly benefitting the most vulnerable populations and regions as well as meeting pressing social and environmental needs.

In this exciting time for Colombia, what are your priorities for 2023?

All of us—not only ProColombia, but also all national government entities, as well as civil society—are committed to lasting peace, which translates into concentrating efforts to bring equity, development opportunities, and sustainable investments to all corners of Colombia. Here at ProColombia, we will work towards social, environmental, and economic justice, as promoted by President Gustavo Petro. We have made it a priority to seek and attract impact investments to help move away from an extractivist model towards a productive and sustainable one, thus strengthening the economic and social integration of Latin America and the Caribbean. Entering the global market is also a priority, with added-value goods and services that increase exports and showcase Colombia as a competitive and sustainable tourism destination.

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