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Felipe Jaramillo Jaramillo

COLOMBIA - Economy

Frontiers of Further Sight

President, ProColombia

Bio

Felipe Jaramillo Jaramillo has a degree in psychology from the Universidad de Los Andes and a master’s in public administration from the London School of Economics. In 2009, he created NeuroFocus Colombia, the first Latin American company specialized in consumer neuroscience, which was acquired in 2013 by Nielsen. Previously, he served in managerial positions in communications and publicity in J Walter Thompson, Sancho BBDO Colombia, and Havas.

TBY talks to Felipe Jaramillo Jaramillo, President of ProColombia, on expanding commercial ties with East Asia, opening up Colombia's provincial potential, and creating higher value-added exports.

What regions are part of Colombia’s strategy to diversify its trade relations?

In contrast to ties with the US and Latin America, Colombia has had less historic ties with Europe and Asia. Therefore, this is where we see an opportunity. ProColombia, as well as the Colombian government, has been working consistently on diversifying not just the type of products and services we export, but also the markets we export to. In this sense, the UK, and Europe in general, are our main targets. Historically, we have had little trade with Asia and are working hard to change this. In 3Q2016, we implemented our first trade deal in Asia with South Korea. Now, we are in negotiations for a deal with Japan.

What is holding back Colombia’s trade with Asia?

For decades Colombia did not look at trading with Asia because most of our trade was focused on our neighbors and the US. However, now we are betting really hard on Asia. We believe the Pacific Alliance will be of critical importance in connecting our economy more closely with Asia. In fact, when the Pacific Alliance was created, one of its main objectives was to connect the four Latin American countries of Mexico, Colombia, Peru, and Chile with Asia.

What has the most potential to help you diversify your exports?

There are two points here. The first thing we have been working on is diversifying the economy as a whole. Historically, we have been more dependent on commodities and oil than we would like. Therefore, the Colombian government has been working on a new development plan to grow those sectors of the economy in which we are globally competitive. There are a few sectors like agro-industries, metal mechanics, tourism, and manufacturing where we believe we have advantages. Of course, commodities and oil are sectors of the economy that will be important for many decades to come; however, we do not want to depend on them too much. In the past, most Colombian exports were basic products and commodities without added value. That is something we are working on changing. We know that in order to reach our goals in terms of social and economic development as a country we need to export more and internationalize our economy. Otherwise, we will be too exposed to price fluctuations and the actions of competing countries.

What investment opportunities does the peace process open up for the country, especially in terms of foreign investment?

Many of the regions that were falling behind in terms of development as a result of proximity to the conflict are now open to the world. This is one of the reasons why we are investing so heavily in agro-industry projects, not to mention tourism. For example, the Guainí­a and Guaviare districts of the Llanos Orientales region. We are optimistic about the impact the development of those regions will have on the Colombian economy. At ProColombia, we are working hard to promote these regions internationally. This is the first time we have been able to do this and the first time we have seen international visitors coming to these parts of the country. Obviously, there is also investment coming from abroad, especially for agro-industrial projects.

What is your general outlook for 2017?

Although the country has some problems, this is nevertheless the best moment in Colombia’s history. One of the great things about Colombia’s economy is that even in the worse moments of civil conflict in the 1980s-1990s, we still had responsible economic management, which had a positive impact on the country’s economy as a whole. Now, Colombia is the second-fastest growing economy in the region and has one of the better outlooks for 2017. Therefore, we are optimistic that 2017 will be great because it will be the first year of peace. We want to take full advantage of this momentum.

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