Potential for Colombia trade is enormous, says Conservative MEP

14-Feb-2018 @ 16:00

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Potential for Colombia trade is enormous, says Conservative MEP

Trade with the European Union and the UK will help Colombia enjoy a peace dividend following the end of its long running armed conflict with the FARC rebels, Conservative joint trade spokesman David Campbell Bannerman MEP said today.

Speaking during a European Parliament fact finding mission to the South American country five years after the application of an EU-Colombia trade deal, he said the benefits were already clear to see, with Colombia's agricultural exports up by 52%.

Mr Campbell Bannerman, who met privately with President Juan Manuel Santos and praised him for his courage and commitment to the peace process, stated: "It is a huge achievement after 50 years of armed conflict and more than 200,000 victims; a conflict on a scale far larger than Northern Ireland where I was personally involved in the peace process. It will soon bring the peace dividend that people have been crying out for, open up whole regions closed to business and tourists and create a new, secure environment for our future commercial relations and for co-operation between us in general."

The Parliament's International Trade Committee delegation has been meeting ministers, civil groups, ambassadors and Colombian business leaders. Economists told the MEPs they expected Colombia's GDP to rise as much as 2% as a result of the peace deal, which came into force in December 2016.

Mr Campbell Bannerman said greater awareness of the EU-Colombia trade agreement was now required on both sides to maximise its potential.

"The possibilities are enormous," he said. "Colombia is the second most populous country in Latin America, is rich in natural resources and has a dynamic, young and rising population.

"Businesses, particularly SMEs, need to be briefed more on how to take advantage of this trade agreement. Colombian companies must continue diversifying and add value by increasing the number of processed products.

"EU companies still face important non-tariff barriers such as the excessive taxation of alcohol, bureaucracy and corruption. It is also difficult for them to bid for public procurement contracts and these issues must be addressed in reviewing the implementation of the deal.

"But I am encouraged by what I have seen in Colombia and, as it heads into parliamentary and presidential elections, I hope its relations with the EU and UK will expand and deepen to the benefit of all sides."

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