By Stephen Kaufman
IIP Staff Writer
May 22, 2013
Speaking in Bogotá, Colombia, May 15 to mark the anniversary, Blank said in her prepared remarks that over the past year “Colombian exports to the U.S. remain strong and Colombia continues to experience a significant trade surplus with the United States, its largest trading partner.”
More trade missions from both countries have been traveling in both directions, she said, with 13 over the past year, a dramatic increase from 2007 when there were none.
With reduced costs and greater access to U.S. goods, “Colombians can now more easily buy an iconic American product — a Harley-Davidson motorcycle — because the 15 percent tariff has been dropped.”
Under the new agreement, “over 600 Colombian companies have exported to the U.S. for the first time. And Colombian experts have estimated that this agreement could add hundreds of thousands of jobs over the next few years — lifting more families into Colombia’s middle class, which has doubled in the past 10 years,” she said.
Blank said President Obama had made it a priority to push forward the agreement when he assumed office in 2009.
“We were able to resolve the last tough issues, such as protections for workers, and move forward to approve and implement this strong trade agreement in 2012,” she said.
At the same time, other economic links were formed, such as closer cooperation on renewable and clean energy, a 2009 Defense Cooperation Agreement, the 2010 launching of a High-Level Partnership Dialogue, and an Open Skies Agreement that was signed in 2011, she said.
Blank said the president also announced that the United States will double the length of U.S. visa validity for Colombian citizens to 10 years, as well as support Colombia’s effort to join the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
She praised the Colombian government’s plan to invest tens of billions of dollars to modernize the country’s infrastructure over the next few years through public-private partnerships to fund building and paving more roads, expanding Colombia’s railway network, modernizing airports and creating new transportation solutions in Bogotá.
“Dramatic progress has occurred here over the past decade to make Colombia a safer and more secure place to travel and do business. But the word is getting out. We’re receiving more and more phone calls at the Department of Commerce from companies asking about the business climate here,” she said.
U.S. businesses are in a position to help Colombia accomplish its infrastructure goals and to work with their Colombian counterparts to provide technical training and vocational skills that can help more Colombians find “new paths to prosperity,” Blank said.
The Obama administration wants to see Colombia thrive and can help create the right conditions for growth by promoting trade, offering best practices for good governance and providing financing and technical assistance, she said.
“With all of these partnershipsb forming etween our governments and our businesses, it’s easy to see that, on this anniversary of our agreement, the United States and Colombia have a bright future together,” Blank said.
“As commerce flourishes between our nations under this new agreement, our economic futures will become even more intertwined, helping grow the middle class and bring prosperity to our citizens,” she said.