This is a special guest editorial written by Camilo Reyes Rodríguez, executive director of the Colombian American Chamber of Commerce.
Both Colombia and the United States are going through a difficult moment because of very different reasons. In our country, because of the expectations raised by the peace dialogues and impending tax reform, and in the United States, due to the unusual confrontation between the candidates of the traditional parties in the race for the White House. Still, there are factors that call for optimism regarding the institutional solidity of our relationship.
The VI Chapter of the U.S.-Colombia High-Level Partnership Dialogue took place on August 1. This shows a rather convenient evolution of the bilateral agenda, which has widened and acquired a more ambitious and updated perspective on the issues it covers as well as the time frame foreseen for its development. On this occasion, advances were made in subjects related to energy, education, sports, culture, innovation, science and technology, environment, social and economic opportunities, and the post-conflict period.
On the other hand we are seeing progress in the process of creating the Binational Business Council announced during President Juan Manuel Santos’ latest visit to Washington in March. This is a step in the right direction. This decision seeks to recognize and increase the significant input of bilateral trade and investment in both Colombian and American progress.
The United States remains, by far, Colombia’s main trade and investment partner. In 2015, 17.5% of Colombia’s total direct foreign investment came from the United States, and 27.6% of our exports were delivered to American soil.
Also, the U.S. companies that have been operating in Colombia for decades now are many. Some of them have been in the country for over 100 years. They have shown persistence and resilience in the face of sometimes very difficult conditions. Here, they have generated progress, development, wealth, and jobs. They still do. You could say the same about Colombian companies that sell their products in the United States or those that operate local production facilities — a goal that, at best, defied the odds just a few years ago.
In light of the consolidation and evolution of the Colombian-American bilateral relation, we call for the coming tax reform to attend to the concerns of companies and to defend and maximize the contributions they have made — and will continue to make. Companies require stability, certainty, and physical and legal security. Only then will they be able to strategically plan their investments and growth possibilities and, particularly, face the regional competition for our slice of market and capital represented by countries like Peru, Argentina, and Mexico.
The Colombian American Chamber of Commerce has always been committed to our country and its future. It is of the essence to receive the kind of signals that will allow companies to wholeheartedly join the efforts to build a lasting and successful post conflict era in Colombia.