Canada and Colombia, 9 years of free trade
By Mauricio Zuluaga
The Canada–Colombia Free Trade Agreement was implemented on August 15, 2011. During these 9 years, the bilateral commerce exchange has totalized over USD$ 13,895 million, and the balance of trade has been in favor of Canada, expected in 2018. But beyond exports and imports, free trade has created a wonderful momentum for Canadians to invest in Colombia and vice versa.
Few months after the Agreement started, in early 2012, Scotiabank announced the closing of its acquisition of 51 percent of Banco Colpatria, one of the most popular banks in Colombia. 4 years later, Brookfield acquired the majority stake of Isagen, the second-largest power generator in the country. With this transaction, Canada became the top foreign investor in Colombia by the end of 2016. From 2000 to 2019, Canada registered a flow of foreign direct investment in Colombia for over USD$6,700 million.
During the last 9 years, Colombian companies have increased their presence in Canada. In addition to the agribusiness sector, where flower farms and fruit growers are the most representative segments, the Colombian cultural and digital industry –known as the Orange economy– have been gaining ground in Canada. For example, Pipeline Studios, a company that has animated popular cartoons such as Bubble Guppies, was founded by Colombians in Hamilton, Ontario.
Education has been playing a leading role as well. According to the Canadian embassy in Colombia, the number of Colombian students in Canada has tripled during the last 5 years, going from 1,500 in 2015 to 5,000 in 2019. Last year, Colombia ranked 9 in the top 10 of international students’ citizenship in Canada. Today, over 100,000 Colombians live across Canada, being the second largest Latin American population in the country.
Before the pandemic, the number of Canadians traveling to Colombia was growing by two digits, from 8,444 travelers in January 2019 to 9,520 in the same month of 2020. The Colombian offer in ecotourism, and its good reputation as a sun and sand destination, has increased the number of flights from and to Canada.
The business ecosystem created by both nations is strong and full of diversity. Today, over 100 Canadian companies have a presence in the Colombian market, across different sectors such as infrastructure, energy, mining, oil & gas, financial services, engineering services, agri-food, and education. On the other hand, over 480 Colombian companies exported non-mining-energy products in Canada.
The Colombian economy performance makes it more attractive for Canadian companies to look for diversification. Over the last 10 years, the GDP per capita has been doubled, and the country has been recognized for having a good business environment. In addition, Colombia’s geographic position makes the country an ideal hub for logistics, warehousing, and transportation.
Last month Canada celebrated 153 years of independence, and Colombia commemorated 210 years of freedom from Spain. Both countries have been having bilateral relations for 67 years, and today, Colombia is Canada’s fifth-largest bilateral trading partner in Latin America and the Caribbean. The future looks positive, and there are still a bunch of opportunities to explore together.