“Exports from Colombia (to Korea) are (valued at) $600 million. The number of exporters (from Colombia) is growing. On the other side, we have imports of Korea at around $800 million. This means the balance is against Colombia. But that balance improving,” Colombian Minister Jose Manuel Restrepo told The Korea Herald at a press conference at the Colombian Embassy in Seoul on Thursday.
“I think that we have a great opportunity of attracting investment. … So I came here to strengthen and relaunch FTA with Korea. … This is the moment to strengthen and extend the FTA and attract more Korean tourists to Colombia,” he added.
During Restrepo’s five-day trip to Seoul last week, he attended a forum on the Korea-Colombia FTA to mark the third anniversary of the agreement signed in 2016.
South Korea is the first and the only Asian country to date that has signed a free trade agreement with Colombia.
As for products that Colombia wishes to export more of to Korea, Restrepo suggested “both traditional sectors and tourism,” including coffee, flowers, processed fruits, confectionary, building materials, shrimp and pork.
|Colombia’s Minister of Trade, Industry and Tourism Jose Manuel Restrepo speaks during a press conference at the Colombian Embassy in Seoul on Thursday. (The Korea Herald/ Kim Bo-gyung)|
According to Restrepo, Korea’s Lotte International purchased 400 tons of shrimp from Colombia this year, up from some 40 tons in 2018. The figure is expected to reach some 1,200 tons in 2020.
Since the implementation of the free trade agreement, bilateral trade volume has steadily risen, totaling $1.8 billion in 2018, up 25.8 percent on-year, according to the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy.
Indicative of Colombia’s desire to increase exports to Korea, Restrepo said Colombian entities conducting business here are highly interested in speeding up the legal process.
“The only difficulty is how to move the admissibility process faster for agri-products from Colombia. That is the main concern we have in terms of the implementation of the FTA -- how to move faster,” Restrepo told The Korea Herald.
He added that another problem concerns complications in exports of dragon fruits, which fall under a new category here.
“The Korean government requires us to bring a person from Korea to check (dragon fruits), which makes the (price) of dragon fruits every expensive,” he said.
By Kim Bo-gyung (firstname.lastname@example.org)