STRONGER TOGETHER

Colombia 2016 | DIPLOMACY | GUEST SPEAKER

TBY talks to Juan Orlando Hernández Alvarado, President of the Republic of Honduras, on the importance of the culture of collaboration and partnership between the two countries.

Juan Orlando Hernández Alvarado
BIOGRAPHY
Juan Orlando Hernández Alvarado is President of the Republic of Honduras. He completed his studies at the National Autonomous University of Honduras (UNAH), and graduated with a degree in law and social sciences. He became a lawyer and notary, and later earned a master’s in public administration from the State University of New York. He worked as a legal professional and as a member of the National Party of Honduras, participating in the electoral process of 1997 and winning the first Liberal MP for Lempira. Before leaving Congress to pursue his presidential campaign, he introduced a bill to create the Integral Government Troop Special Response Unit Security.

In March 2010, Honduras and Colombia signed an FTA. Since then, how has trade between both countries changed?

The FTA between Honduras and Colombia sets the rules for a bilateral relationship with clear and predictable trade standards between the two countries. Honduras' experience has been positive. While we still have a trade deficit with Colombia, aspects agreed to in the FTA have led to an increase in imports for Colombia from Honduras as a result of the placement of new products in the Colombian market, especially in the clothing segment. Without a doubt, this trend has had a positive impact on the economy of Honduras through generating jobs and attracting investment toward product placement in non-traditional markets that have great potential. It is worth mentioning that the framework of dialogue that the FTA generates with Colombia also leads to regular assessment of its performance in order to strengthen it and improve bilateral trade. To date, it defines an agenda for further market access for products that do not now have preferential access. Our entrepreneurs should take advantage of the opportunities offered by the market in Colombia, and we hope to help them find new markets in the sister country.

In September 2015, Honduras and Colombia signed a unilateral agreement to fight against terrorism and organized crime. How do you expect this agreement will help progress toward achieving better safety levels?

The MoU for the Establishment of the High Level Group on Security and Justice (GANSJ) will be used as the primary instrument for the coordination and monitoring of actions of all legal instruments in force between Honduras and Colombia on security and justice, drugs, combating organized crime and human trafficking, and others. The partnership between the two governments and coordination through GANSJ has allowed us to accurately hit criminal gangs, especially drug cartels. Honduras used to be a country widely used as a bridge for the transit of drugs from Colombia and other neighboring countries to Mexico and the US, and this has been greatly reduced. The US government itself has acknowledged that traces of drug flights have been reduced by over 70%, and all of this is possible thanks to the cooperation between our governments and their agencies. The seizure of drugs is increasing every year and we hope to continue working on it, because it is beneficial to all parties involved.

What is the present political and economic relationship with the government of Colombia?

Honduras and Colombia established diplomatic relations in 1825. Since then, the bilateral relationship between the two countries has been marked by strong ties of cooperation and friendship. It is important to mention the results of the active relationship, such as several legal instruments, to regulate cooperation actions (security, trade, investment, culture, education, and technology exchange), as well as common interest issues marking the international agenda. We have a Bilateral Mechanism for Dialog and Political Consultations created by the MoU signed in Tegucigalpa on September 4, 2012. The Bilateral Mechanism provides a mechanism for consultation at the level of ministers to address political, cooperation, economic, and trade issues, as well as the updating of regulations, security issues, regional and multilateral issues, and also a bi-national mechanism at the level of Vice Chancellors responsible for reviewing commitments, who to date have met twice. The Joint Committee on Technical Cooperation, Science, Culture, Education and Sports was created under the Agreement on Technical and Scientific Cooperation signed on March 4, 1980 and the Cultural and Educational Cooperation Agreement signed on August 12, 1961. The last meeting of the Joint Committee V was on April 4, 2013 in Bogotá, where we defined the Cooperation Program 2013-2015. Besides trade, Colombia has increased investment in Honduras. The Honduran banking and cement sectors have benefited from the arrival of new capital. We are excited about this and hope that more Colombian companies and investors can settle in the country.