INDEPENDENT NEWS

Cablegate: Ambassador Brownfield's September 24 Call On Trade

Published: Thu 27 Sep 2007 06:06 PM
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SUBJECT: AMBASSADOR BROWNFIELD'S SEPTEMBER 24 CALL ON TRADE
MINISTER PLATA
1. (SBU) Summary. Minister of Trade, Industry and Tourism
Luis Guillermo Plata on September 24 told the Ambassador that
the dramatic turnaround of Colombia remains a process and
still requires expanded trade and investment. The Minister
applauds USG efforts to expand the bilateral economic
relationship through the Total Economic Engagement (TEE)
process and stands ready to work closely with us to develop a
working agenda. Increased tourism holds a key position in
Colombia's development plan due to its positive impact on
small business and its multiplier effect. The Minister made
a pitch for revision of the U.S. Travel Warning on Colombia
given improvements in security. End Summary.
2. (SBU) The Ambassador paid an introductory call on Minister
Plata on September 24. The Ministry's three Vice Ministers
-- Eduardo Munoz (Trade), Oscar Rueda (Tourism) and Sergio
Diazgranados (Industry) -- accompanied Plata. The Minister
emphasized that Colombia remained mid-way down the path of
its dramatic turnaround under President Uribe, which has
generated dramatic and steady improvements in GDP growth,
foreign direct investment (FDI), employment and security.
The country registered 7.5% growth in the first half of 2007,
Plata added, a clip that must continue for five-to-ten years
to cement the gains. "We are near the tipping point" of
making this turnaround complete, he added, emphasizing that
passage of the U.S.-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement
(CTPA), continued FDI expansion and tourism growth remains
essential to achievement of this goal.
3. (SBU) The Ambassador stressed that approval and
implementation of the CTPA remains the USG's principle
economic priority in Colombia. He added that our robust
bilateral economic links extend well beyond the agreement.
Building on the recent visits of EEB Assistant Secretary
Sullivan and Under Secretary for Economic, Energy and
Agricultural Affairs Reuben Jeffery, he suggested that we
work together to develop a broad agenda for engagement to
complement the CTPA under the TEE umbrella. Plata concurred
with the Ambassador's suggestion, and proposed a follow-on
meeting after his upcoming trip to Europe in late OctobeQto
fQut an agenda.QQvedQ key to
Colombia's economQQdepended on increasing the value
added of Colombia's productive capacity through the
development of new products, and not merely increasing
production of traditional goods such as coffee, coal,
petroleum and bananas. He would like to explore development
of a venture capital industry in Colombia, and proposed
establishing links between the GOC and Small Business
Administration to aid small and medium business development.
Munoz added that Colombia remains extremely interested in
APEC membership, and the GOC would soon present a proposal
for participation in APEC working groups in preparation for
the lifting of the moratorium on new members in 2010.
4. (SBU) Minister Plata emphasized the important role of
tourism in Colombia's development plan, highlighting the
doubling of tourists from 500,000 in 2002 to 1 million in
2006. Colombia remains on pace to increase tourism to 1.3
million in 2007, with the goal of attracting 4 million
visitors by 2010. He noted that Royal Caribbean cruise lines
returned to Cartagena this year after a 5 year absence, and
that Princess cruise lines has announced plans to begin
service in the near future. Tourism, in Plata's view, has a
significant multiplier effect and positive social impact as
monies flow to small and medium-sized businesses. The time
is right, he continued, for a stepped-up promotional campaign
which had been on the shelf during the years of heightened
violence in Colombia. The U.S. provides 28% of visitors to
Colombia, a figure that could substantially increase
according to Plata if the State Department modified its
Travel Warning. Plata contends that the current warning does
not accurately reflect improvements on the ground in
Colombia, particularly in popular tourist areas such as San
Andres, Cartagena, Medellin, Bogota and the Department of
Santander. He requested the Ambassador's assistance in
seeking a revision of the Travel Warning language.
Brownfield
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