Mar. 7, 2019


José Manuel Restrepo Abondano

Colombia

José Manuel Restrepo Abondano

Minister, Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Tourism

“We have to open new markets and continue our negotiations with Asian countries and associated nations in the Pacific Alliance.”

BIO

José Manuel Restrepo Abondano studied economics in Universidad del Rosario before completing his master’s degree at the London School of Economics. He is a doctoral candidate in Management of higher education institutions at the University of Bath. His distinguished career has seen him serve as vice-rector of Universidad del Rosario and Rector of CESA.

What sectors of the industry and economy have the most potential for growth in 2019?

Colombia has the potential for growth according to the new policies of this new government, which is pro-private initiative and pro-industrial and firm development. The government understands the importance of building new firms for this country and attracting more investment for the country to not only increase growth but also build such equity to generate employment and build inclusive growth for the country. There are many sectors that the country will develop in the coming years. The tourism sector has grown by double digits in the last four years and attracts millions of international visitors. The sector is growing in terms of domestic tourism and takes advantage of Colombia's most important assets: our biodiversity, beaches, sun, and the growth in events and convention tourism. Adventure tourism and environmental tourism are also rapidly growing. However, there are many ways to further develop this sector. Another important sector for Colombia is the creative or orange economy. It takes advantage of the most important asset of this country, namely our human capital. The quality, perseverance, resilience, and creativity of our human talent sets Colombia apart from other countries in the world. The creative economy includes traditional sectors such as music, arts, design, fashion, architecture, gastronomy, and even tourism. The sector currently represents approximately 3.8% of GDP, and we expect it to grow to 5% in the coming four years. Another key sector is industry. Areas particularly in metal mechanical and auto parts, as well as in plastics and other sectors, have developed significantly in terms of productivity and competitiveness. Industry is also growing considerably in terms of exports. In December 2018, industry growth in exports was almost 5%, and we expect this to continue in the medium term.

How can the ministry help develop a mentality and a culture of entrepreneurship in Colombia?

Something that is different in this country is the courage in our entrepreneurs; the global entrepreneurship index highlighted Colombia as a country with a great deal of potential. We have the organization iNNpulsa to further develop entrepreneurship. Every year, we hold the most important meeting of entrepreneurs called Heroes Fest, and 2018 saw the highest-ever number of attendees. We develop this mentality and culture by holding meetings, discussions, and clusters of entrepreneurs in different regions of Colombia and promoting them. We also give them the opportunity to obtain seed capital to develop their ideas. To further organize the ecosystem of entrepreneurship, we work with institutions such as Fondo Emprender and others focused on entrepreneurship. We have to segment the policy, as sustainable entrepreneurship is different from opportunity entrepreneurship or high-value entrepreneurship. We are developing a process of segmentation of the policy of entrepreneurship in the country. Another important issue is providing enough capital to entrepreneurs. We are considering the possibility of attracting more risk and venture capitals. In this way, we are combining public and private partnership to promote entrepreneurs and provide enough seed capital, risk capital, and venture capital and support them. We expect to attract around USD500 million in the next four years and plan to do so by working with Innpulsa, Fondo Emprender, and other entrepreneurship funds in Colombia combined with the assistance of the Bank of Foreign Trade (Bancóldex) and other similar organizations in the government.

Which sectors of the economy are currently the most important for Colombia's export economy?

We have three strategies in our trade policy that was in the national council of trade: taking advantage of current free trade agreements, facilitation of commerce, and legal and loyal commerce. We have a great opportunity to benefit from the many FTAs that Colombia has signed. In terms of the sectors, we want to boost agro and agroindustry products, especially in the EU, where we have almost full access to our agro products immediately. We have other opportunity in terms of industry, for example in terms of confectionary. Other important sectors include metal mechanical and auto, plane, and boat parts; plastics; and services. We have to open new markets and continue our negotiations with Asian countries and associated nations in the Pacific Alliance to take more advantage of inter-Pacific Alliance commerce. We should also start opening partial agreements with African and Caribbean countries, which are important in terms of buying food and agro products.

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