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Thursday, July 25, 2013 Q&A with Juan Carlos Gonzalez, Foreign Investment Vice-President at Proexport Colombia

Point Roberts WA, New York, NY - July 25, 2013 ( newswire), an investor research portal specializing in sector research for global investors issues an exclusive interview with Juan Carlos Gonzalez, the Foreign Investment Vice-President at Proexport, Colombia, a National Agency for the promotion of FDI, non-traditional exports and international tourism. The interview gives insight into the past, present and future relationship between Colombia and Canada and how the mindset of a country can change its destiny.

With a population of 47 Million people and a demographic of 55% being younger than 30, his closing comment was possibly the most significant in the interview.
When asked what has changed the most in Colombia over the past ten years and what the biggest driving force is, he told that it was a change of mindset. “Colombians started to believe that their future would be better than their past . Ten years ago a young person's biggest goal was to leave Colombia, now it is to start a business. “
If Colombia could bottle that optimism and entrepreneurial spirit, it could possibly become its biggest export .
The following is a summary of the discussion that took place July 19 th.
Before we discuss the future of the trade relationship between Canada and Colombia, can you give us a glimpse of what has happened since the Canada/ Colombia Free Trade Agreement became effective in 2011?
A: Juan Carlos Gonzalez, Foreign Investment Vice-President at Proexport Colombia
Canada was the first G7 country to open up new markets in Colombia . It was a big leap not just for Colombia but also for neighboring markets. One of the biggest impacts was the growth in tourism and how it opened up the eyes of Canadians to a new Colombia.
Over the past two years both countries have learned about each others markets. Proexport has actively promoted the opportunities that exist between the two countries and has expanded its presence in Canada, with offices in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal .
More Colombian countries are exporting to Canada, but the true picture is not all reflected in just the numbers. It's more about the mutual education of opportunities. Colombians did not know a lot about Canada prior to the agreement and Canadians needed to learn more about the potential role of Colombia in its future . One of the key points we try to educate foreign business on is that the country is split into very different regions that each represent their own unique opportunities .
The FTA created a venue that allows for a flow of business but education is essential to show business on both sides how to take advantage of it.
We are now seeing opportunities expand beyond traditional markets of oil and gas, mining and coffee.
How much of a role does Canada play in Colombia's economy ?
A: Juan Carlos Gonzalez, Foreign Investment Vice-President at Proexport Colombia
Since August 2011- May 2013, a significant number of Colombian companies exported to Canada for the first time . Stats show 140 new Colombian companies have exported their products to Canada with 66 new products
There has been a lot of growth in non traditional exports including flowers, textiles, cosmetics and auto parts.
According to Stats Canada , Colombian exports to Canada reached US$ 218, 5 million between January and April 2013, and the subsectors with greater participation include those that have contributed traditionally to trade between the two countries. Coal and Petroleum (39%), Coffee (23%), Flowers (14%), Banana and other fruits (10%). These 4 represent 85% of Colombian exports to Canada.
When asked about progress in global markets, Juan Carlos Gonzalez noted that Colombia is seeing record growth. Ten years ago global exports were 11 Billion and last year it rose to 60 Billion. Another significant indicator is the inflow of foreign investment over the past 10 years. Colombia is ranked 3 rd after Chile and Brazil for investment into South American countries. In 2012, Colombia received over $15 billion of Foreign Direct Investment.
Tourism is also a growing market, expanding from just over 300,000 visitors then years ago to over 3 Million now.
Can you discuss Colombia's investor protection policy and its global ranking ?
A: Juan Carlos Gonzalez, Foreign Investment Vice-President at Proexport Colombia
Colombia has been very stable and has not defaulted on its debt. Colombia takes all investment very seriously and is responsible to its investors. According to the World Bank, its global ranking we are number 6, while Canada is number 4 in the world. Their ranking measures the strength of minority shareholder protections against misuse of corporate assets by directors for their personal gain.
The World Bank also notes that Colombia is the third most business-friendly and the leading reforming country in Latin America.
How tax friendly is Colombia to the business community?
A: Juan Carlos Gonzalez, Foreign Investment Vice-President at Proexport Colombia
The corporate tax rate is 33% but Colombia is very proactive and has created free trade regions with tax rates of 15%.
As part of the government's effort to create jobs, there are also incentives to start business in certain sectors. Additionally they have lowered payroll taxes based on certain tax reforms passed last year. Payroll taxes have been lowered from 50% to 25- 30%.
What industry sectors are untapped for new business between Colombia and Canada?
A: Juan Carlos Gonzalez, Foreign Investment Vice-President at Proexport Colombia
Colombia has a sizeable growing market of over 47 Million people, currently the second largest Spanish speaking country in the world after Mexico.
There is a growing dynamic middle class economy that creates opportunity on many fronts, and in particular consumer products. Colombia is seeing a lot of retail and consumer markets opening up. Not only do the companies get to serve Colombia consumers, but also surrounding countries.
Some examples of untapped opportunities include service providers for the oil and gas and mining sectors. There is a great opportunity to serve the resource industry and identify areas where they don't have technology to meet the needs; for example, environmental services or pipeline services.
Another key area to look at is the services sector. There is a growing population and talent pool to capitalize on. Many companies are coming into Colombia and setting up customer service centers.
Canada 's animation industry has come to Colombia looking for expertise in the digital sector as well as telecom companies have set up operations in Colombia to serve Latin American markets.
Colombia also has a gap in infrastructure, including transportation, housing, construction and the materials sector.
There is also a growing market for cleantech and renewable energy technologies. Foreign companies have come into Colombia with waste management and waste to energy technologies.
Juan Carlos also made clear that small and medium businesses looking to start operations or trade with Colombia should contact Proexport and make use of their resources. They can help business create a tailor made plan specific to their sector. Colombia is looking for innovation and partners and small business is always known to bring innovation to the forefront.
The Colombian government is making it easier for new business to get Visas, to encourage and promote innovation and R&D.
So for business leaders looking for new opportunities and a new frontier - all roads lead to Colombia …
Interview by D. Van Zant
Bio /Juan Carlos Gonzalez Foreign Investment Vice-President at Proexport
He has been in charge of designing and implementing Colombia´s foreign investment promotion strategy as the country has become one of the top
recipients of FDI in Latin America. Proexport was ranked by the World Bank (FIAS) in 2009 among the top 25 Investment Promotion Agencies in the world
out of 213 agencies assessed by the quality of the information and services provided to prospective investors. Between January 2009 and June
2010, 98 new projects with expected investments of over US$1.5 billion were initiated in Colombia by foreign investors supported by Proexport.
Previously, Mr. Gonzalez was Economic and Trade Attaché at the Colombian Embassy in Japan, Vice-President at the Invest in Colombia Corporation
-COINVERTIR- , Director for International Affairs at the National Directorate of Taxes and Customs, and Adviser to the Minister of Foreign Affairs.
Mr. Gonzalez did his undergraduate studies in Economics at Universidad de los Andes ( Bogota), Lewis and Clark College ( Portland, Oregon) and Hokusei
Gakuen University ( Sapporo, Japan). He holds a Master´s degree in International Studies from the University of Washington ( Seattle), and an MBA from the Melbourne Business School ( Australia).
He is fluent in English and Japanese and has working level proficiency in French and Portuguese. Newswire Proexport Colombia
Proexport provides business opportunities, clear information on requirements, strategies for expanding services and goods at an international level, participation in business fairs and assistance by experts for investors, exporters, and professionals that wish to come closer to their dreams.
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