Posts Tagged ‘Colombia’

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Taking Advantage of Business Opportunities in Colombia

June 25, 2014

This post originally appeared on the U.S. Minority Business Development Agency blog.

George Mui is the Access to Markets team lead in MBDA’s Office of Business Development.

Aerial view of a city in ColombiaThe U.S. Department of Commerce, through its Look South campaign, helps U.S. exporters to expand their markets and identify new opportunities in Latin America. U.S. goods exports to Peru, Panama, Mexico, and Colombia have increased every year since 2009. As we celebrate the second year anniversary of the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement more American companies are exporting goods and services to Colombia, the vast majority of which are duty-free. The U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement is just one of the11 free trade agreements between the United States and Latin American countries.

That’s why MBDA San Antonio Business Center director Orestes Hubbard and MBDA Global Business Center project manager David Leister visited Colombia along with an MBDA Global Business Center client, Carlos Silva, CEO of USATEQ, a Colombian native.

MBDA San Antonio director Orestes Hubbard shared his experience with George Mui, MBDA’s Access to Markets team lead in the Office of Business Development.

Mui: Why did you choose to travel to Colombia?

Hubbard: Colombia has a very advantageous geography and is roughly twice the size of the state of Texas – where I live. Colombia is also the only country in South America with access to both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans and has long had good diplomatic and trade relations with the United States.

Mui: What was the purpose of your trip?

Hubbard: The purpose of the trip was to make contacts and identify concrete and tangible contracting opportunities for not only our center clients, but also opportunities for minority-owned businesses across the nation. We visited the two largest cities and major centers of commerce and industry, Bogota and Medellin.

Mui: You found some impressive opportunities – can you highlight a few of the industries?

Hubbard: In total, we discovered over $30 billion of business opportunities. There are private sector opportunities for U.S. construction and engineering companies looking for potential partners on infrastructure projects. The Colombian government has a number of opportunities in the renewable energy, highway, and railway industries. Colombia is the third ranked automobile manufacturer in Latin America, which creates significant opportunities for manufactured products, preferably automotive-related. For more information on opportunities in Colombia I recommend businesses visit the best prospect sectors for Look South countries.

Mui: An MBDA Global Business Center client was part of the trip to Colombia – what was the client’s impact?

Hubbard: Inviting a Colombian-American client from Medellin proved invaluable as Mr. Silva was able to make key government and private sector introductions, particularly in the areas of construction, renewable energies and automotive supply chain in Colombia.

Mui: What were your key takeaways?

Hubbard: Our trip confirmed what most trade reports declare, that Colombia is open for business and the stigma of the drug cartels and vast conflict with the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) are things of the past. The main challenges appear to deal with traffic snafus and the need for the Colombian government to continue its admirable commitment toward growing the middle class.

However, it must be noted that fluency in Spanish is essential to having success in Colombia. This applies not only to the obvious case of setting up a local facility, but also when engaging a market representative. It is important that a good knowledge of Spanish is available in-house in the United States operations.

Mui: Can you discuss on-the-ground resources available to help minority-owned firms?

Hubbard: We cannot emphasize enough the invaluable role the U.S. Commercial Service in Colombia plays in assisting MBDA clients get into the Colombian market. We met with senior commercial officer Cameron Werker, foreign commercial officer Aaron Held, and a Colombian national market specialist, all of whom were very helpful in sharing information and resources pertaining to helping U.S. companies successfully enter the Colombian market.

This was an excellent collaborative meeting in which we gained critical insight into the Colombian economy and political workings. We mutually agreed that after registering with the local United States Export Assistance Center in the United States, all minority business enterprise clients interested in doing business in Colombia would be promptly referred to U.S. Commercial Service in Colombia to obtain market intelligence and critical introductions to events and contacts.

All in all, we came away impressed with the seeming transparency and relative ease of starting up a company, pulling in on-the-ground resources in Colombia from both the U.S. Embassy, as well as local Colombian trade and investment vehicles.

Mui: What advice do you have for U.S. companies thinking about exporting?

Hubbard: For minority-owned firms who want to learn about global business, and believe your product or service can be sold abroad, your first stop should be an MBDA Business Center. Contact Orestes Hubbard, director of the MBDA San Antonio Business Center at orestes.hubbard@utsa.edu or 210-458-2480.

MBDA supports the Look South campaign with a successful business exploration trip to Colombia. As a result, more than $30 billion of global contract opportunities were identified in both private and public sectors. Additionally, the MBDA Global Business Center also identified key strategic partners, such as the American Chamber of Commerce and ProExport Colombia. We look forward to bringing you more insights from Colombia.

MBDA and ITA have pledged a memorandum of understanding through January, 2016 that provides assistance to minority companies to develop their export potential through increased awareness and use of existing ITA products and services; increase ITA and MBDA cooperation at the regional and district office/local level, especially in regard to export counseling and trade finance training for minority firms.

 

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Gold Key Matchmaking Service helps Indiana firm to “Look South”

February 7, 2014

Conner Moore recently completed an internship in the International Trade Administration’s Office for Export Policy, Promotion, and Strategy.

Even though the Look South initiative is just getting started companies like Indiana-based Escalade Sports are already looking south by using Mexico as a stepping stone to other Latin American markets. Escalade is an internationally known manufacturer and distributor of sporting goods brands. Back in 2005, National Account and International Sales Manager Marla Fredrich targeted sales to Mexico as a springboard to Latin America.

After teaming up with Dusan Marinkovic, a trade specialist with the International Trade Administration’s U.S. Commercial Service (CS) in Indiana, Escalade benefitted from export counseling and the CS Gold Key Matchmaking Service.

This service helps U.S. companies find potential overseas business opportunities by arranging business meetings with pre-screened contacts, representatives, distributors, professional associations, government contacts, and/or licensing or joint venture partners.

Through the Gold Key, Fredrich traveled to Mexico and met with pre-screened prospective business partners arranged by CS trade professionals at the U.S. Embassy.

As a result of ongoing CS assistance, Escalade made its first sale to Mexico and continues to increase its sales to the country. Having established a foothold in Mexico, Escalade has since looked south and started exporting to other parts of Latin America, including Colombia and the U.S.-Central America-Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement countries of El Salvador and the Dominican Republic.

Fredrich is upbeat about the region, and sees a lot more opportunity.

“We are now reaping the fruits of our hard work in making new sales to world markets, and Latin America has become a key focus of our international business strategy,” she says. “There’s no doubt that learning the ins and outs of selling to Mexico and working with the Commercial Service gave us more confidence in expanding our sales to other parts of Latin America.”

Fredrich also said that Escalade’s involvement in exporting and international diversification has enabled it to weather the changes in the global economy, and to grow and become more internationally competitive. As a result, the company has been able to sustain and support many new jobs in the United States.

Whatever and wherever your business is, the International Trade Administration can help any company that is ready to start exporting, expand to new markets, and begin to “Look South.”

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Recognizing the one-year anniversary of the U.S.-Colombia TPA

May 15, 2013

Julie Anglin is the Desk Officer for Colombia and Panama in the International Trade Administration’s Office of South America. 

Image of a street in Colombia with a map in the background.

The tariff rate on many U.S. goods sold in Colombia has gone down dramatically since the trade agreement took effect.

The U.S.-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement – commonly called the “Colombia TPA” – took effect one year ago on May 15, 2012.

Prior to the TPA’s entry into force, the average Colombian tariff rate on U.S. industrial goods was higher than 10 percent. Today, the average Colombian tariff on these goods has fallen to only 3.4 percent.

That’s a tremendous benefit for U.S. exporters, as it helps them compete on a more level playing field in the Colombian market. U.S. farmers see even greater benefit, as more than half of current U.S. farm exports to Colombia are now duty-free.

The TPA includes commitments on strengthened protections for intellectual property rights benefiting American creators and innovators, as well as commitments opening Colombia’s $166 billion services market.

U.S. exporters are taking notice. Since the Colombia TPA has been in place, U.S. exports to Colombia are up 19 percent, compared to the same period the previous year.

U.S. companies are now well-situated to participate in numerous Colombian infrastructure projects to be undertaken in the next four years, valued at $26 billion. In fact, Acting Secretary Rebecca Blank is in Colombia right now, leading a trade mission of 20 U.S. companies seeking to learn more about upcoming airport, seaport, rail, highway, and mass transit upgrades.

For a country that already appreciates the value proposition of U.S. goods and services, the TPA now allows U.S companies to be even more competitive in this fast-growing market. Colombia’s economy is forecast to grow 4.1 percent in 2013, and 4.5 percent annually on average from 2014 to 2018.

A web-based resource created by the International Trade Administration, the FTA Tariff Tool, is a great way to see the tariff elimination or reduction for your product under the agreement.

To ensure that your company’s product will benefit under the agreement, you will also need to determine that the product meets one of the rules of origin criteria in the Colombia TPA and claim this when importing. You can contact an Export Assistance Center for help with this.

And sometimes, despite the trading partner’s best endeavors to implement trade agreements correctly, U.S. exporters and investors can encounter problems. The International Trade Administration’s Trade Agreements Compliance Program can help sort out market access problems arising from foreign government-imposed trade barriers. Report a trade barrier at www.trade.gov/tcc.

For more information, you can also contact your local Export Assistance Center. You can also find more facts about our trade relationship on our website.

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Under Secretary Sánchez Participates in Americas Competitiveness Forum

October 31, 2012

This post contains external links. Please review our external linking policy.

Marc Buergi is a fellow in the Office of Public Affairs at the International Trade Administration

U.S. Commerce Under Secretary for International Trade Francisco Sánchez led Commerce’s delegation to this year’s Americas Competitiveness Forum (ACF) in Cali, Colombia, October 24-26.

Sánchez’s participation underscored the U.S. government’s commitment to enhance the competitiveness of the Americas – a region that is vital to the U.S. economy. With Mexico and Canada, it not only includes two of our three largest trading partners, but also some of our key trade agreement partners, including the host country Colombia.

The Obama administration and the Commerce Department are firmly committed to strengthening U.S. trade within the Western Hemisphere. At the 2012 Summit of the Americas, President Obama announced a number of initiatives designed to enhance this important trade relationship. These included the 100,000 Strong Initiative to expand student education exchanges; and the creation of the Innovation Fund of the Americas that increases access to export financing thereby expanding trade opportunities for small and medium-sized enterprises.

In Cali, Sánchez reported on the strong efforts of all U.S. government agencies to advance these initiatives.

The ACF, first held in 2007, tries to improve the region’s competitiveness through innovation, entrepreneurship, public-private partnership and mutual engagement. Hundreds  of representatives from the region’s public and private sector participated in a continental dialogue on competitiveness. Among the numerous guests were heads of state, ministers of economy, commerce, trade and industry, and leaders from academia, civil society, and business.

This year’s ACF helped further develop the goals established at last year’s Forum in the Dominican Republic: In 2011, the “Santo Domingo Consensus” set forth 10 objectives to promote progress toward a more competitive and prosperous region in areas like education, infrastructure, and trade liberalization.

The participants of this year’s ACF learned about the progress and experiences the countries made in adopting the 10 principles: At the opening event of the Forum, the Inter-American Competitiveness Network presented its report “Signs of Competitiveness of the Americas.”

The ACF featured several collateral events, including a business ethics workshop focused on the medical device industry in the Americas, a higher education forum focused on STEM disciplines (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) and a closed door meeting of ministers of trade, commerce and industry.

Commerce is looking forward to helping deliver on the action items put forward at this important event.

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U.S.-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement Now in Force!

May 15, 2012

Christopher Blaha is a Senior International Economist within the Office of Trade and Policy Analysis and Julie Anglin is the Colombia Desk Officer within the International Trade Administration.

Today more than 80 percent of U.S. exports of consumer and industrial products to Colombia become duty-free as part of the U.S. – Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement. This includes agricultural and construction equipment, building products, aircraft and parts, fertilizers, information technology equipment, medical scientific equipment, and wood. Also, more than half of U.S. exports of agricultural commodities to Colombia become duty-free, including wheat, barley, soybeans, high-quality beef, bacon, and almost all fruit and vegetable products.

Related:

Growth Opportunities for U.S.-Colombia Textile Trade

The agreement also provides significant new access to Colombia’s $180 billion services market, supporting increased opportunities for U.S. service providers. For example, Colombia agreed to eliminate measures that prevented firms from hiring U.S. professionals, and to phase-out market restrictions in cable television.

Prior to the enactment of this agreement, the average tariff that U.S. manufactured goods faced entering Colombia was 10.8 percent. With entry into force today, Colombia’s average tariff rate for manufactured goods from the United States has been reduced to 4 percent.

Colombia Snapshot

Colombia’s 2012 real GDP growth is forecasted at 4.7 percent by the IMF’s World Economic Outlook, remaining around 4.5 percent through 2017.

Colombia’s demand for imports has soared since 2001.  Colombia’s merchandise imports from the world have more than quadrupled over that period climbing from $12.8 billion in 2001 to $54.7 billion in 2011.

The United States remains the largest supplier to the Colombian market, with Colombian imports from the U.S. in 2011 totaling $13.7 billion, or one-quarter of Colombia’s imports.

Imports from the United States in 2011 were led by mineral fuels, machinery, aircraft and organic chemicals. Those four categories accounted for over half of Colombia’s imports from the U.S.

Other top Colombian import markets include China, Mexico and Brazil. The U.S. is the largest market for Colombia’s exports, representing nearly 40 percent of the Colombian export market.

The impact of the tariff reductions of U.S. exports to Colombia will be immediate for many products; including recreational vehicles, like motorcycles and pleasure boats (Colombia’s average tariff on U.S. exports will be reduced from 13.7 percent to 5.4 percent today) and agricultural equipment, like tractors and harvesters (Colombia’s average tariff will be reduced from 10.8 percent to 3.1 percent today). This will make U.S. manufactured products much more competitive and could also potentially boost sales.

The economies of the United States and Colombia are largely complementary in terms of the goods each exports to the other. For example, Colombia is a large importer of grains from the United States while it exports a number of tropical fruits to our country. In addition, U.S. cotton, yarn and fabric exports to Colombia are used in many apparel items that Colombia exports to the United States.

Facts about U.S. – Colombia Trade:

  • Between 2001 and 2011 U.S. goods exports to Colombia quadrupled, growing from $3.6 billion in 2001 to $14.3 billion in 2011. U.S. goods exports in 2011 were 19 percent higher than the previous year.
  • Colombia has grown from being the 33rd largest market for U.S. goods exports in 1991 to become the 22nd largest market in 2011.
  • Manufactured goods represented 92 percent of U.S. goods exports to Colombia in 2011.
  • Increasing exports to Colombia has benefits at the local level as well as the national. In 2011, more than half of U.S. States (26 total) reported merchandise export shipments to Colombia above $75 million.
  • In 2011, the largest state exporters of merchandise to Colombia included Texas ($5.1 billion), Florida ($2.8 billion), Louisiana ($894 million), California ($534 million) and Illinois ($454 million).
  • Houston and Miami are also major metropolitan area exporters to Colombia.

The provisions of the agreement and the resulting tariff cuts present new opportunities for U.S. companies and give U.S. exporters an advantage over exporters from Colombia’s non-FTA partners. The International Trade Administration maintains a database that helps exporters monitor when tariffs on specific products go to zero. The FTA Tariff Tool currently has information relating to manufactured products.

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Quick Approval of Trade Agreements is Good News for the American Economy

October 12, 2011

Francisco J. Sánchez is the Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade

Earlier tonight, the millions of Americans concerned about jobs got some good news: Congress approved trade agreements with Korea, Colombia and Panama.

It’s been a long journey to this moment, so let me cut right to the chase: Opening new doors of opportunity for U.S. firms to sell their products in these three markets will strengthen our economy and sharpen our competitive edge in the global economy.

It will also support jobs.

Ford Motor Company employees at the Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne, MI assemble a 2012 Ford Focus.

Ford Motor Company employees at the Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne, MI assemble a 2012 Ford Focus, one of the vehicles targeted for the Korean market under the U.S.-Korea Trade Agreement. Photo by: Sam VarnHagen/Ford Motor Co. Used with permission.

For every billion in U.S. goods exported overseas, more than 5500 jobs are supported here at home.  In total, the three agreements will support tens of thousands of jobs and add billions to the U.S. GDP — reasons for all Americans to cheer.

I commend President Obama for his leadership in creating a balanced trade agenda.  He has worked tirelessly to get the best possible deal for businesses and workers.  Congress also deserves credit.  These measures were passed with bipartisan support.  That both parties were able to find common ground on these issues speaks to positive economic impact that these agreements will have on communities across the nation.

I also applaud the President and Congress for renewing the Trade Adjustment Assistance program.  Why?  Because whenever there is change, there are some who are negatively impacted; some Americans, through no fault of their own, have lost their jobs because of foreign competition.  But all is not lost: TAA will help them retrain and retool for success in the 21st century economy.

The world is rapidly changing, and we must change with it to succeed in this economic environment. That’s why these three trade agreements are so important; they’ll create new opportunities across all regions and sectors.   Take the auto industry, historically a backbone of the middle class:

In 2010, the U.S. exported approximately $1.5 billion in vehicles and parts to the three prospective markets despite facing relatively high average tariffs.  Because the agreements have passed, the tariffs on these products will ultimately fall to zero, expanding opportunities for growth in exports for U.S. companies.

This is a big deal.  As President Obama said in his speech to Congress outlining the American Jobs Act:

“If Americans can buy Kias and Hyundais, I want to see folks in South Korea driving Fords and Chevys and Chryslers. I want to see more products sold around the world stamped with three proud words: “Made in America.”

With the passage of these three trade agreements, chances are we will indeed see more U.S. products sold around the world.  That’s a victory for us all.

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Making it Easier to Sell Products “Made in America”

October 3, 2011

Francisco J. Sánchez is the Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade.

It was a good day for American businesses and workers.

Earlier this afternoon, President Obama submitted three free-trade deals — with Korea, Colombia and Panama — to Congress for consideration.  If passed, these agreements would be a big boost to our economy, providing new opportunities for U.S. companies abroad, while strengthening our economy here at home.

As the President said: “These agreements will support tens of thousands of jobs across the country for workers making products stamped with three proud words: Made in America.”

President Obama has long said that exports are a key to the nation’s economic recovery.  Nearly two years ago, he launched the National Export Initiative with the goal of doubling U.S. exports by the end of 2014.  And, last month, in a speech before Congress where he unveiled the American Jobs Act — a bipartisan proposal to put Americans back to work — he stressed the economic benefits of these free-trade agreements.

The President has correctly recognized that exporting provides U.S. businesses with new opportunities to sell their goods and services in markets overseas.  The pending FTAs before Congress would ensure that this trade — with three important markets — is both free and fair.

This is important.  Consider that, in 2010, the United States enjoyed a $9.9 billion non-oil trade surplus with our FTA partners, as compared to a $371 billion non-oil trade deficit with the rest of the world.  In addition, last year, 41 percent of U.S. goods exports went to our FTA partners, even though those countries only account for 9 percent of global Gross Domestic Product.

Clearly, fair trade is good for our economic health and future.  If passed, the pending FTAs are sure to enhance these benefits.  Now, there have been a lot of misconceptions about these FTAs.  To set the record straight, here are some basic facts:

Korea

The U.S. –Korea trade agreement will:

  • Support at least 70,000 American jobs, and boost annual exports of American goods by up to $11 billion through tariff reductions alone.
  • Create new opportunities for U.S. exporters in Korea’s $1.5 trillion economy, the 12th largest in the world in 2010, based on purchasing power parity exchange rates.

Colombia

The U.S. – Colombia trade agreement will:

  • Generate new possibilities in the 3rd largest economy in Central and South America.
  • Reduce barriers to U.S. exports, spurring new opportunities for our businesses, workers, farmers and ranchers, thereby supporting more and better jobs for Americans.

Panama

The U.S. – Panama trade agreement will:

  • Provide new possibilities with one of the fastest growing economies in Latin America, expanding 6.2 percent in 2010, with similar annual growth forecast through 2015.
  • Enhance U.S. competitiveness by eliminating tariffs and other barriers to U.S. exports and expanding trade between our two countries.

Bottom line: By ensuring that the American people have a level-playing field to compete on in these three important markets, the FTAs would spur billions in economic activity, support tens of thousands of American jobs, and sharpen the United States’ competitive edge moving into the future.

The President has worked hard to strengthen these agreements to, in his words, “get the best possible deal for American workers.”

Now, I join his call in urging Congress to pass the FTAs without delay.

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