Interview: Flavia Santoro Trujillo

What is the country’s strategy to increase exports and foreign direct investment (FDI)?

FLAVIA SANTORO TRUJILLO: Colombia’s investment and export promotion efforts are based off of five key pillars previously established by the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Tourism (Ministerio de Comercio, Industria y Turismo, MINCIT): finding new sources of growth; increasing FDI; bolstering entrepreneurship; boosting productivity and innovation; and improving competitiveness.

Efforts to facilitate trade are aimed at leveraging the potential from the 16 free trade agreements currently in effect, as well as to developing e-commerce channels and provide support to medium-sized companies to enable them to access foreign markets and effectively open up new possibilities for the export of Colombian goods. Export growth is already positive; based on the latest information for 2019, we can see an increase in the export of goods across all major non-mining segments. For this year, ProColombia aims to reach export values of $4.4bn for non-mining activities.

With regards to investment, ProColombia seeks to attract $5.35bn in FDI for 2019 across 150 projects, thus providing an estimated 36,000 new jobs. In this context, the national government has passed a number of new reforms, such as those included in the recent tax reform, to bolster investment.

New tools are also being developed to promote investment in the country. Together with regional authorities, a roadmap has been created that comprehensively presents the investment opportunities in the country, as well as the different benefits, fiscal or otherwise, which can be obtained under them.

Under the Conectados programme, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and MINCIT are working in conjunction with the private sector to encourage goods exports and foreign investment. The prominent goal is to bridge the local business community with foreign companies that are seeking to invest in our country.

How does the Orange Economy play a role in the country’s promotion strategy?

SANTORO: Colombia has quickly become a prime destination for creative and cultural industries. The development of the Orange Economy plays a pivotal role in establishing the Colombian brand across the world. Efforts to grow audio-visual businesses, predominantly within the filming industry, have already attracted companies such as Netflix, HBO and Amazon. Besides the film industry, software development, business process outsourcing and other fields are also blossoming, especially given recent reforms aimed at bolstering investment and entrepreneurship. To support the president’s ambitions, we must accompany the development of the industry abroad, with the aim of making it a prime contributor to our GDP in the coming years. Our human talent also needs to be promoted as well, as it is our most important export and is part of all products and services produced locally.

To what extent is the tourism sector currently being promoted and developed?

SANTORO: When thinking of our nation’s image, we automatically think of music. Colombia is said to be a country with a thousand rhythms, and through the recent tourism campaign “feel the rhythm” we want to express this. The country is working extensively to improve connectivity with other countries through campaigns like these, as well as through the promotion of multi-destination programmes. Moreover, the Inter-American Development Bank has also expressed its ambition to hold its next General Assembly in Barranquilla, which is expected to bring in an additional 5000 visitors to our shores. In total, the government is seeking to attract 4.6m tourists and host 450 international events in 2019. Plans to bring in a selection of luxury hotel brands are also in place to further foment our country’s position as a prime tourism destination within the Latin American region.