CONTINENTAL SYMBIOSIS

Colombia 2018 | DIPLOMACY | GUEST SPEAKER

TBY talks to François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of International Trade of Canada, on making globalization work for all Colombians and Canadians, supporting the environment and mutually progressive causes, and increasing technological and educational ties.

François-Philippe Champagne
BIOGRAPHY
Businessman, lawyer, and international trade specialist, François-Philippe Champagne has more than 20 years of experience in large international companies, particularly in the fields of energy, engineering, and innovation.

What are Canada's commitments to South America?

Our government is committed to broadening Canada's global trade ties around the world, including those in South America. Indeed, our standard of living depends on robust international trade as a key driver of economic growth. To that end, the government of Canada has embarked on a progressive trade and diversification strategy that aims to expand markets for more Canadians while contributing meaningfully to overall economic, social, and environmental policy priorities. Too many groups, particularly women, indigenous peoples, youth, and newcomers have not shared in the benefits that have come from free trade.

What are the main areas of collaboration that Canada will seek with Colombia in 2018?

We have many plans for collaboration this year, from peacebuilding to progressive trade. Canada is looking forward to pursuing more engagement with the Pacific Alliance trade bloc of Colombia, Chile, Mexico, and Peru. This includes helping small and medium-sized businesses export, strengthening education and professional technical training, and addressing climate change and creating a cleaner environment. Our investors are also keen to add to the over 100 Canadian companies already working in infrastructure, energy, mining, oil and gas, agri-food, education, and services in Colombia. In June 2017, I signed a MoU with Colombia's Vice Minister of Mines, Carlos Cante Puentes. Canada is providing development assistance of USD18.9 million over five years focused on community consultations and participation, engaging local suppliers, reducing the use of mercury, and promoting economic empowerment.

What Canadian industries will see major commercial growth with Colombia in 2018?

First, there is optimism for the infrastructure sector, with numerous construction projects in transportation, energy, health, and education expected to start in 2018. One project with Canadian involvement is the development of the Atrio complex in Bogotá, which will consist of two towers, one with 42 floors to be completed in 2019 and another with 62, potentially becoming the tallest building in Colombia. We are also closely following developments related to the Metro de Bogotá project. Second, we are seeing growth in the financial services sector. For example, in January 2018 Scotiabank announced that its Colombian subsidiary, Banco Colpatria, had reached an agreement, subject to regulatory approval, to acquire the consumer and small and medium enterprise operations of Citibank in Colombia. Third, Colombia is developing long-term contracting projects with renewable resources and plans to launch renewable energy auctions in 2018, a sector in which Canada is a world leader. Fourth is the extractive sector, where we see huge opportunities in offshore exploration stage and EOR.

What opportunities are Canadian businesses strengthening with Colombian counterparts?

In agriculture, for example, Canadian suppliers can share their experience with Colombia by offering cutting-edge solutions for sanitary compliance, food processing, packaging, and other areas of interest for the local industry. Canada is a world leader, not only in renewable energy, but more broadly in cleantech. This includes water and wastewater treatment for industrial and domestic uses and solutions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. We also have a particularly strong cleantech Green Mining umbrella that makes mining more sustainable. Canadian exporters of state-of-the-art technologies for next generation mobile networks, big data analytics, business intelligence, and cybersecurity are also looking at Colombia. While an increasing number of Colombia students are studying in Canada, we have also welcomed close to 400 Colombian scholarship recipients of Canada's Emerging Leaders of the Americas Program (ELAP).

What will Canada's Associate membership of the Pacific Alliance mean for Canadian businesses?

We were the first non-Latin American observer country in 2012 and the first observer to sign a Joint Declaration of Partnership with the bloc in 2016. The invitation to become an Associated State of the Pacific Alliance is the logical next step for our longstanding partnership in prosperity. We already enjoy a strong economic relationship with the trade bloc, which is supported by comprehensive bilateral free trade agreements with each of its four member countries.