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Colombia: President Santos’ Tour of Asia

Last week, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos toured Japan and South Korean for seven days with the goal of strengthening commercial ties.  In Japan, he signed an agreement to protect reciprocal investments, while the Koreans promised to accelerate the process for a free trade treaty.  According to Santos himself, this trip was a dream come true, after previously visiting this region when acting as Minister of Exterior Commerce during the Cesar Gaviria administration 18 years ago.

And it was not for nothing.  President Santos consolidated an alliance with Korean corporate leaders that assured him a superior investment of $220 million and the government of this country indicated Colombia as a “member” along with other economies of great importance such as Japan and the United States, according to the daily El Tiempo [es].  President Santos’ interest in this trip was such that the logistical display was massive, according to Revista Semana magazine [es]: everything from the fact that officials and members of the armed forces had to attend to the pens they had to use at the signings.

President Juan Manuel Santos, image from Globovisión on Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

For some bloggers, this trip represented the opportunity for Colombia to open new markets and introduce its products, as Jhodainternacional [es] describes it:

Es real que la internacionalizacion [sic] de los productos de colombia [sic] son el primer paso para alcanzar un desarrollo sostenible y que el horizonte que ofrece Asia es el mejor, por factores como su población [sic], sus ingresos percapita y los beneficios que se pueden recibir, como el desarrollo tecnologico, [sic] la formacion [sic] de capital humano y el efecto locomotor que se desprende de este.

It's true that the internationalization of Colombian products is the first step to attaining sustainable development and the horizon that Asia offers is the best, for factors like its population, its per capita income and the benefits that we can receive, such as technological development, building human capital and the locomotive effect that comes off of it.

This same blog also adds that it is convenient for Colombia to open other markets as a result of the current poor economic time in the United States [es]:

Tal y como se siente el presente, la posición de Colombia como país de economía dependiente no es la mejor postura que pudiera tener la nación para afrontar el futuro teniendo en cuenta que USA está pasando por una recesión y que los pronósticos no son alentadores.

Considering the present, Colombia's position as a dependent economy is not the best position that the nation could have to confront the future, taking into account that the USA is going through a recession and the prognosis is not particularly encouraging.

On its part, the Iberian-American Observatory of Asia-Pacific [es] highlighted the agreement that President Santos signed with South Korea with respect to topics on energy, miners and infrastructure [es]:

Asimismo, ambos mandatarios cerraron otro memorando para la protección ambiental y para proyectos en el desarrollo de viviendas, urbano y de infraestructuras. Santos dijo que espera que “los memorandos se traduzcan en acuerdos formales e inversiones concretas”, después de asistir a la firma de convenios entre la siderúrgica surcoreana Posco y las colombianas Fanalca y Blue Pacific. Asimismo, Myung-bak informó que en adelante Corea del Sur dará a las relaciones con Colombia el nivel cooperación estratégica, uno de los más altos que otorga esta nación.

Likewise, both heads of state closed another memorandum for environmental protection and projects for housing, urban, and infrastructure development.  Santos said that he hopes “the memorandums are translated into formal agreements and concrete investments,” after attending the signing of agreements between the South Korean iron and steel sector Pasco and Colombian Fanalca and Blue Pacific. [es] As such, Myung-bak informed him that moving forward, South Korea will grant Colombian relations strategic cooperation, one of the highest that this nation awards.

Two months ago, Diego Sánchez de la Cruz wrote for International Relations Blog about President Santos’ strategy in increasing Colombia's presence in international markets and improving its relationship with its neighbors:

Since Juan Manuel Santos took office, Colombia’s foreign policy strategy has experienced significant changes. For instance, the new Cabinet restored diplomatic ties with both Venezuela and Ecuador, ending years of political stress and closing a period of security dilemmas that created uncertainty and instability. The Economist has explained that “Santos has shown a desire to broaden his country’s friendships in the region”, and it looks like his effort has been successful so far

And they add that Santos does not only look to strengthen commercial tied with the Pacific basin, to which Japan and South Korea belong to as well:

However, President Santos is not only looking to expand Colombia’s ties with the Pacific economy. The European Union has just passed a Free Trade Agreement with Colombia, and this partnership is likely to become broader. President Santos himself has recently visited Spain and Germany, heading a diplomatic mission that devoted most of its efforts to highlight business opportunities in Colombia to European investors.

Twitter users did not hesitate to respond, beginning with President Santos himself, (@JuanManSantos) [es]:

Hemos salido muy complacidos con la visita al Japón, ha sido muy fructífera para el país. Agradezco toda la hospitalidad del pueblo japonés.

We have been quite pleased with the visit to Japan, it has been very fruitful for the country.  I thank the Japanese population for all of its hospitality.

Followed also by another Twitter user from the State Department of Colombian Foreign Relations (@CancilleriaCol) [es]:

#CancillerHolguín calificó como exitosa en materia comercial la gira del presidente Santos por Asia (Vía @noticierodel

#CancillerHolguín labeled President Santos’ tour of Asia successful in commercial material (Vía @noticierodel

Mylianita (@Mylianita) [es] responded to Santos’ message with the following:

@JuanManSantos Bien por usted, hay que abrir puertas no esperar solo el tlc con USA, bien bien lo felicito

@JuanManSantos Good for you, we need to open doors and not just wait for the FTA with the USA, good good I congratulate you

Of course, the Colombians’ cunning comments did not go unnoticed.  For example, Felipe Acevedo (@FelipeAcevedoM) [es] put forward that traveling the world is a pleasure, as President Santos does it:

“Gira del presidente Santos por Asia, ‘un sueño cumplido'”// Que rico viajar por todo el mundo…

“President Santos’ tour of Asia, ‘a dream come true'” // How nice it is to travel the world…

Ernesto Macías Tovar (@emaciastovar ) [es] indicated that there were more reporters than government personnel during the trip:

En Comitiva del presidente #Santos en viaje por Asia hay más periodistas que empresarios y funcionarios. Muy bueno por los primeros.

In the #Santos presidential delegation on the trip throughout Asia, there are more journalists that corporate leaders and officials.  Very nice for the first group.

Jorge Figueroa Clausen (@figuerjoda) [es] asks the following question:

A ustedes les ha hecho falta el Presidente SANTOS que esta viajando por ASIA? [sic]

Do you miss President SANTOS who is traveling throughout ASIA?

Finally, Lucho Martínez (@martinezlucho) asks why President Santos did not visit Asia's primary economy:

Why is Colombian President Santos in Asia, but not visiting China?

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