Interview: Cecilia Álvarez-Correa

What benefits can be expected from Colombia’s accession to the OECD?

CECILIA ÁLVAREZ-CORREA: Macroeconomic stability, predictability and good governance are fundamental components for accession to the OECD. By belonging to the OECD, Colombia will show it has met key criteria and this will increase third-party trust levels in its institutions. Transparent regulations and a level playing field for all economic operators will also make it more attractive as an investment destination. Colombia would also have a voice and a vote in the discussions of this privileged group. To become a full member, we must have the endorsement of 23 thematic committees. Of those 23, the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Tourism is in charge of two: the Investment Committee and the Trade Committee. Significant progress has been made in both areas, and we are striving to accomplish the OECD recommendations. The other 21 committees are managed by other state entities, also working in the same direction. In 2015 we expect to reach the OECD objectives in some of them.

How can the industrial sector benefit from the free trade agreement (FTA) with South Korea?

ÁLVAREZ-CORREA: Colombian companies will have access to inputs and raw materials that are not currently being produced in the country. In addition, the reduction and removal of Customs taxes and tariff barriers will make Colombian products more competitive. This will help our exporters to penetrate high-income and import-oriented markets. In fact, before the negotiations took place, ProColombia identified 444 new products, not related to mining or energy, that have high export potential from Colombia to South Korea. These products include: arequipe, jam, juice, cookies, leatherwork, drugs, beauty and care products, cosmetics and clothing. It is necessary to make efforts in the promotion of Colombia in South Korea to better leverage and expand the export potential of these products. In this regard, ProColombia is highlighting the country’s products and opportunities through trade missions, thus opening new windows to export markets and attracting foreign investment. The FTA provides opportunities, but it is the private sector’s job to make the most of them.

What are the main development goals under the Productive Transformation Programme (PTP)?

ÁLVAREZ-CORREA: The PTP has been the focus of Colombia’s industrial policy since its creation in 2007. Initially, it was developed to identify and stimulate sectors with high potential to produce and export globally. Today, the programme has been extended to stimulate sectors that encourage public-private partnerships where the public and private sectors work together to solve challenges related to efficiency, productivity and competitiveness. The PTP is intended to boost 20 sectors considered most important in global economies, with a focus on human capital, legal and regulatory frameworks, and strengthening, promoting and innovating. Companies working with the PTP have significantly raised productivity, increased their exports and expanded into new markets.

What is being done to promote the expansion of Colombian firms regionally and overseas?

ÁLVAREZ-CORREA: Their international expansion and transition into multi-Latin markets is backed by the ministry through entities such as Bancoldex and ProColombia. Bancoldex, with its new internationalisation platform, facilitates financial operations, while ProColombia offers financial support. Both make their international network and market knowledge available to domestic companies to help them expand their market reach. They also provide the companies with information about the business processes and legal requirements of target countries, as well as offering advisory services on how to achieve growth goals.