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Patricia Tovar

COLOMBIA - Economy

Through Thick And Thin

Executive Director, Colombian British Chamber of Commerce (BRITCHAM)

Bio

Patricia Tovar has been with the Colombian British Chamber of Commerce for 14 years. Previously, she was the president of Eurocámaras for two terms.

How have trade relations between the UK and Colombia grown since BRITCHAM’s establishment in 1981, and what role has the chamber played in that development? With time, there have been […]

How have trade relations between the UK and Colombia grown since BRITCHAM’s establishment in 1981, and what role has the chamber played in that development?

With time, there have been many sectors that have grown between Colombia and the UK, such as infrastructure, automobiles, machinery, and equipment for heavy industry, spirits, liquor, and pharmaceuticals. In terms of Colombian exports to the UK, we have expanded our trade volumes for petrol, coal, and nickel, and one of the most important exports of late has been palm oil, which has already seen great growth and potential for exporting to countries beyond the UK. That is one of the most interesting new products that we have been developing for the last 12-14 years. We see the UK as an important supporter and ally for Colombia. The UK watches LatAm as a potential region to invest in and sees Colombia as one of the most stable economies.

What are some of the sectors that are particularly attractive to British investors?

Definitely infrastructure, given the government’s Fourth Generation (4G) Infrastructure plan. There are many companies interested in learning more about opportunities to invest. One such company is Holdtrade, which is developing an important rail project from La Dorada to the Santa Marta port.

What advantages does Colombia have over other countries in the region for investors?

When people make the decision to invest it is because we have economic stability, which is one of the most important issues for foreign investors. With the next structural tax reforms, we hope the government will help companies be able to define a strategy for investing here. We have a privileged location; therefore, Colombia is investing in ports to increase its competitiveness for goods and prices for internal transportation, distribution, and logistics. We do not have political problems in the way that Brazil, Venezuela, or potentially even Argentina do. By comparison, Colombia has been providing a source of stability and relatively important growth for investors. Our people are of course another asset, and international surveys regularly show Colombia to be one of the happiest countries in the world, making it easier to attract personnel from abroad.

How do you foresee the uncertainty surrounding Brexit affecting trade and investment between the two countries?

The potential effect of Brexit is an interesting subject of analysis for economists around the world. Colombia is a close ally of the UK, and we protect our allies. We suggest our government sit with the UK government. We have the EU trade agreement, which was negotiated for so many years that we hope to maintain it with the UK in a bilateral agreement; therefore, the negative effects on Colombian exports should be minimal. We have always had the visa procedure, so we are accustomed to it. The sterling pound has always been a strong currency and will likely remain so. We try to promote the benefits of an interesting trade relationship between the two countries, with more trade visits. Our top commercial partner remains, of course, the US, but we ask our entrepreneurs to come with us to the UK and be trained in industries like agribusiness and textiles.

What can the two countries bilaterally achieve in the next year?

We hope more Colombians will consider investing in the UK and participating in innovative and creative projects. In alliance with the Latam Business School, we are taking a group for special training and strategy in leadership, business success, business development, and human resources. We are also trying to move toward having short training courses for Colombians in different universities as well as visiting various fairs. One of our goals is to move into the agribusiness and manufacturing industries. Our engineers will have trainings with Durham University before the oil and gas prices return to past levels.

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