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BUSINESS GUARDIAN guardian.co.tt JULY 20 • 2017
Colombia is ready to assist
Once stereotyped as a war-torn
country with a drug trafficking
problem, Colombia---a country
of 48 million people---has been
able to successfully transform
itself into one of Latin America's
Today, the country is Latin America's fourth larg-
est economy and has seen relatively high economic
growth rates over the last ten years.
Colombia's new Ambassador to T&T, Alfonso
Múnera, believes there is a lot that the South Amer-
ican giant can share with T&T in business, trade
and language ties.
Last week, he held a meeting with T&T's Minister
of Trade, Paula Gopee-Scoon which he described
as "very friendly."
Although, the latest trade statistics for 2017 are
not available, according to information provided
by the Colombian Embassy, the country invested
US$4 billion in the Latin American and Caribbean
region in 2016.
From January to August 2015, Colombia sold to
and bought from T&T US$178 million and US $164
million respectively in goods and services from this
Goods and services traded between the two coun-
tries include oil and gas derivatives, agriculture
products, food, clothes, machinery and construc-
Múnera spoke to the Business Guardian last Friday
at the Colombian Embassy, Maraval Road, Port-of-
Spain. He presented his credentials at the beginning
of May and although there is no stipulated timeframe
for his tenure, he said a Colombian ambassador is
normally posted for three to four years.
Next year, both countries celebrate 50 years of
This is not his first time in T&T as, up to last year,
he served as secretary general of the Association of
Caribbean States (ACS).
Múnera spoke about T&T businesses that have
been successful in Colombia and used the Massy
Group as an example.
He called Massy's successes in the Colombian
"There is Massy Energy subsidiary, also Massy
Motors. The head of Massy Motors, at a meeting I
was at, said Massy is selling more cars in Colombia
last three years than in T&T. They are doing business
in Cali, Medellin, Bogota."
He said there is a growing number of T&T nation-
als who want to do business in Colombia.
"We recently had a meeting and there are a lot
of T&T companies who are interested in entering
the Colombian market. Some of them are bringing
textiles from Colombia, clothes and other products."
He said oil and gas are still the main products
traded between the two countries.
"We need to diversify that. When I first came to
T&T in 2012, I did not see any Colombian products
in the supermarkets in Trinidad. Now if you go to
Massy Stores or PriceSmart you can see products like
Juan Valdez Coffee, you can see Colombian Cookies
along with the Colcafé brand among other products."
One of the main areas of discussion with T&T's
Trade Minister was reducing tariffs to ensure than
goods and services between the two countries could
be traded more cheaply.
Last year Colombia successfully initiated a Span-
ish course for diplomats and public servants.
Múnera said they brought in a university professor,
who is paid by Colombia, to carry out the training
course in T&T for four months.
"We think that collaborating in teaching Spanish
is more important than people think. This is one
of the real obstacles that separate the "two Car-
ibbeans"---of the Colombian Caribbean coast and
the Caribbean islands. We have to overcome this
He added that they plan to do this training course
every year because of the positive reaction from
Múnera also said last week, he had a meeting with
the University of the West Indies (UWI) Principal on
the topic of a delegation of Colombian academics
coming to T&T in October.
This will include the principals from universities
on Colombia's coastal cities like Cartagena, Santa
Marta and Barranquilla.
These academics will cover different disciplines
such as agriculture, engineering, tourism, language
and tropical medicine.
Crime and security
Colombia has long been regarded as one of Latin
America's most violent countries.
This has changed over the last 15 years as the
high rate of crime has been considerably reduced
and Colombia has thrown open its doors to foreign
T&T, on the other hand, is in a recession and vio-
lent crime has been on the rise for a number of years.
When asked what a small Caribbean country like
T&T could learn from Colombia's successes, Múnera
replied by saying that Colombia has evolved.
He said the different sectors of Colombia have
come together to solve the problems.
"About 15 years ago, no one wanted to go to Co-
lombia as we had so much difficulties like crime and
violence. Now there are five million tourists who
come to Colombia annually. The business sector, the
government, civil society established a consensus
that we had to take the country out of the deep crisis.
Then we began working together."
He also said right now T&T and Colombia are
working on a memorandum of understanding on
the prevention and investigation of the crime of
trafficking of individuals.
"Colombia is willing to help T&T with whatever
it thinks is necessary."
Envoy on relations with T&T
Colombia's Ambassador to T&T.
PHOTO: ANDRE ALEXANDER
Colombia invested US$4 billion
in the Latin American and
Caribbean region in 2016.
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