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Colombia taking steps to facilitate business growth

CARTAGENA, Colombia — North American companies are catching on to the increased need to include Latin America, as a culture and a region, in marketing plans.

Brazil has had a lot of attention as a nation that is ripe for building a new customer base. The boating industry has seen it as a major area of development and growth as the nation’s GDP grows and the currency strengthens.

But a few years ago, when high taxes were placed on exports such as boats that equaled about 100 percent, some companies felt discouraged about exporting to the country.

That’s an issue export officials in Colombia think they can help with.

Miguel Angel Franco Hossain, senior tourism specialist with Proexport Colombia, the government group charged with increasing tourism and exports in the country.

Miguel Angel Franco Hossain, senior tourism specialist with Proexport Colombia, the government group charged with increasing tourism and exports in the country.

The country is trying to make it easier for local companies to grow, as well as make it less challenging for companies around the world to come and do business, Miguel Angel Franco Hossain, senior tourism specialist with Proexport Colombia, the government group charged with increasing tourism and exports in the country, told Trade Only Today during a press trip.

Several recent free trade agreements have been put in place to facilitate that international growth, Hossain said. Ten years ago the country only had four or five agreements; now it has 12.

“A couple of years ago, a company that built a product in Kohl, Germany, came and added a little part of the product in Colombia with national workers,” Hossain told Trade Only. “That qualified to be exempt from taxes. That became the logistics center in Cartagena, so they benefited by the free trade agreement. If they had exported the product directly from Germany, they wouldn’t have had that benefit. And now, the entire country's working on getting more companies here.”

It depends on the country, but roughly 30 percent of the product must be built or assembled in Colombia to qualify as a native product.

Colombia hopes to benefit from those high Brazilian taxes.

“If a country is putting too much regulation in place or they make it too expensive, that becomes our opportunity to get the company here,” Hossain said. “Actually companies from Brazil are trying to come here to get people to export. Because of our different trade agreements, we become an export platform without paying taxes, or reduced taxes.”

Internally, the country is looking to partner with marine schools to provide training for Colombians, Andres Cerda Nieto of the Cartagena Chamber of Commerce said during a presentation last Friday. A nautical education program in conjunction with Broward College in Miami has been discussed to help residents become trained and skilled in the boating industry, Nieto said.

“We are trying to contact people from marine mechanics institutes and marine technical programs,” Nieto told Trade Only “We’re open to making alliances with universities and training centers from other countries. We don't currently have educational offerings with those high standards, but we will look for that.”

Read more about the growing marine industry in Colombia and the Cartagena International Boat Show in the May edition of Soundings Trade Only.

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