Colombia Reaps Big Rewards from Free-Trade Agreements

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Three months after its free-trade agreement with the United States went into effect, Colombia is already reaping the benefits, in terms of investment, export growth and job creation. According to president Juan Manuel Santos Calderón, as many as 500,000 new jobs have been or are in the process of being created as a direct result of growth in trade prompted by the pact. Foreign direct investment, which more than doubled between 2010 and 201 1 , is aso set to rise steeply, according to Juan Carlos González, vice president of foreign investment at Colombia's inward investment development agency, Proexport Colombia. "In 201 1 foreign investment reached a historic high of $1 3.2 billion," almost doubling from the previous year's total of $6.8 billion, says González. Just two months after the implementation of the free-trade agreement, he adds, "exports in manufacturing sectors such as construction materials and apparel increased by 70% [over the same period last year]."

Inward investment from US companies is expected to grow sharply too, as companies seek to benefit from Colombia's trade ties with other countries in the region. The free-trade agreements that Colombia has with other countries have positioned the country as an international platform for foreign investment," says Gonzalez. …