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Colombia continues to be the U.S.'s greatest ally in the region

Article - October 30, 2013
As the South American country grows stronger and peace seems to be just around the corner, American companies find that they can still put their trust in this long-time friend of the United States
Historically, Colombia and the United States have been close allies ever since the 1920s when Colombian President Marco Fidel Suárez made public his “Follow the North Star” policy. It meant that the country should look to the ‘giant’ of the north and try to follow in its steps.

As ridiculous as that notion may be in modern times, it shows the country thinks of the United States as a friend and guide in difficult times. As Colombia grows to become one of the most important nations in the region, it also modifies its relationship with the United States: these two countries are now equal allies that work together to strengthen their economies and the bonds that still unite them. 
In 2011 at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, María Ángela Holguín, Colombian Secretary of Foreign Affairs (equivalent to the U.S. Secretary of State), declared: “It’s difficult to find a more pro-American country than Colombia in the region, and that’s not going to change.”The statement is certainly telling and of special significance to those American companies that are coming to Colombia with investment plans. “There is special interest in the services market: call centers, and legal and consulting services.

Also, all of the most important American players in the technology field are in Colombia today. And, of course, oil and gas are also very attractive areas,” explains Ricardo Triana, Director of the Council for American Businesses (or CEA in its initials in Spanish.) 
The CEA is an organization that helps and orients American businesses that arrive in Colombia so they have a “softer landing”, as Mr. Triana puts it. “We want to accompany these businesses during their stay in Colombia on different issues,” he says, and explains the fields in which his organization is helpful: “Networking is of great importance.

We are probably the only guild in Colombia that only admits American businesses. We believe in the relevance of fellow American CEOs knowing each other. This way they can trade information and advice. It also helps with the social part of coming to a new country.” 
When asked what is being done in terms of these two countries working together to improve aspects like good governance and environmental issues, he replies: “Collaboration has been extensive and Colombia has been on the vanguard in many aspects. Environmentally wise, our regulations are so strict – even more so than American and European regulations – that it has actually become an obstacle for companies to begin operating.

In terms of working conditions, there was an agreement made before the signing of the FTA and a plan that is being followed. Colombia inaugurated a Department of Work dedicated to overseeing all problems that could come from it.” 
All these developments are making it possible for American businesses to invest in Colombia and for Colombia to export many products to the U.S. At the moment, there are over 200 American businesses working in almost every sector of the Colombian economy. But Javier Díaz-Molina, Executive President of Analdex (the National Association for Foreign Commerce), explains that an important part of foreign investment is going into the mining and energy sectors.

“That is why we are so interested in stimulating investment in other sectors, so we can turn them into more dynamic areas,” explains Mr. Díaz-Molina. One other sector he believes has begun to grow and show promise is construction. He says Colombia is legally promoting foreign investors: “The last tax reform introduced a set of incentives for foreign investment by lowering taxes for those resources coming into the country. It shows Colombia is interested in having different outside investors linked to its economy.” 
As for Colombia’s role in exporting its own products to the States, he declares: “Even though exports to the U.S. are still low, they are the highest of the lot with 34.7%, equivalent to $10.139 million. The second country after the U.S. buying Colombian products is China, with 8.2% (this number grew by around 20%.)” With a historical friendship between Colombia and the United States, it is not surprising that the economic and political success of the South American country is reflecting positively in their already strong relationship.