Building on 200 years of strategic partnership
This year, Colombia and the United States are celebrating both the 10-year anniversary of the signing of the U.S.-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement (TPA) and a 200-year-long strategic relationship that has been sustained by strong bipartisan support and successful initiatives, such as Plan Colombia. The U.S.-Colombia TPA underpins a strong economic relationship worth over $40 billion dollars in two-way trade and provides an important foundation for FDI attraction through the elimination of tariffs and removal of barriers to trade.
Now is a prudent time to reexamine the future of the bilateral relationship and how both countries can build on the success of the last 200 years given the recent congressional and presidential elections in Colombia and the upcoming mid-term elections in the United States. As we look to the future, the U.S. Chamber’s U.S.-Colombia Business Council (USCBC) is focused on continuing to promote two-way trade opportunities that encourage inclusive and sustainable economic growth in Colombia and the United States.
Promoting inclusive and sustainable growth through the expansion of the digital economy
As a Colombian-American and the CEO of Millicom, which operates significant digital infrastructure in Colombia through our subsidiary Tigo, I am delighted to chair the USCBC and support its efforts to foster the strongest possible bilateral relationship between the United States and Colombia. Among its priorities, the USCBC has worked tirelessly to promote the growth of the digital economy as a way to facilitate trade and investment and promote the creation of jobs.
For instance, the USCBC advocates for a digital trade framework that will allow the U.S. and Colombian governments to negotiate binding commitments that create durable digital trade rules, as well as encourage economic security and competitiveness, enhance growth and transparency, and further strengthen the close bond shared between the countries. Digital trade rules benefit businesses of all sizes and workers by fostering a free and open internet, creating access to new markets, and addressing discriminatory and protectionist digital trade restrictions. As per the U.S. Chamber’s recent publication, a digital trade framework between our two countries may also provide the impetus for a broader digital agreement of the Americas that would unite the region endorsing common standards, norms, and approaches, including the principles of openness, inclusiveness, fairness, and transparency.
The USCBC has advocated in favor of smart and forward-looking policy solutions that support digitalization and expanded access to broadband through the promotion of financial inclusion, increased transparency through digital government services, and the incorporation of SMEs and rural areas. We believe that a new digital framework could become a significant driver for the investment, technology, skills, and resources needed to foster an environment that would accelerate Colombia’s economic roadmap and readiness for future technologies. As per a recent study by Dr. Raul Katz of Columbia Business School, a 10% increase in fixed broadband penetration in Colombia is associated with a growth in GDP per capita of 0.8%, while a 10% increase in the penetration of unique mobile broadband users results in a growth in GDP per capita of 0.4%.
Modernizing the U.S.-Colombia relationship through digitalization
I am very optimistic about the future of the U.S.-Colombia relationship. It has been, and will continue to be, a major success story. As we look towards the next 200 years, we need a modern regulatory framework that guides our commercial relations. A modern-day approach to trade and an enhanced digital regulatory framework will incentivize the digital economy and unleash private sector investment from all our companies in the USCBC and beyond. Latin American exports of services continue to lag behind the rest of the world, but a new approach to digital trade could become a driver for economic growth and job creation.
A new digital trade framework can create mutually beneficial streams of labor supply, support service exports and imports on both sides, and drive inclusive and sustainable growth for all. We are living in uncertain times globally, so let’s come together as the strong allies we are in order to lay the groundwork for economic and social opportunities for the people of Colombia and the United States.