What are the most relevant aspects in the bilateral relation between Colombia and the Dominican Republic? What are the priorities of the embassy right now?
Relations between the Dominican Republic and Colombia are at their peak, thanks to a combination of factors. First, we have two similarly minded presidents with matching development strategies. Dominicans have realized that Colombia is our big brother, and there is a great deal we can learn from the country's experience and progress. Second, for the first time in many years, there are two ambassadors who come from the political world. This brings many advantages because we understand how politics work, and the relation between two countries has many political aspects. I fell in love with Colombia 40 years ago due to the respect that exists for public institutions. That makes my country look at Colombia as a source of development. This embassy has participated in the negotiation of several agreements for cooperation. We have asked the Colombian National Hydrocarbon Agency about its recommendations for us to develop a similar agency to theirs. We are leading hydrocarbons prospection works, and we need Colombia's experience to find those developers and investors. That will help to create a public-private partnership.
What opportunities are there for shared development for both countries?
When I started to work in Colombia, President Duque told me Colombia needed assistance to develop free trade zones for the manufacturing industry. He also mentioned Colombia wants to support the development of the tobacco industry and they wanted to learn about our experience in the tourism industry. This is part of what we are negotiating. Since August 2020, when President Abinader took office, we have been working closely with Colombia in the area of security and the fight against drug trafficking. That is important for Colombia and the Dominicans. We have a great deal to learn in that area. However, the trade balance is 80-20 in favor of Colombia. We are negotiating a partial free trade agreement, as there are Dominican products that can compete in Colombia with more favorable conditions such as tobacco and rum. In 2019, 160,000 Colombians visited the Dominican Republic, but only 30,000 Dominicans visited Colombia. However, the interesting part is that in 2018, only 10,000 Dominicans came to Colombia. There was a three-fold increase in a single year. Tourism is a two-way street. Dominicans do not need a visa to travel to Colombia and vice versa, which makes it easier to receive tourists. Colombia is destined to become a tourism power, and President Duque has asked Dominican businesses to build a type of Punta Cana in Colombia and invest in the country. However, the pandemic has completely put a halt to that project. Now, my role is to push it forward
Can you name other potential aspects of the bilateral relationship? What other sectors could be pushed forward?
In agriculture, we were developing a cooperation agreement through which the Dominicans replicate the experience of Colombia, perhaps in the area of the cattle industry. We also need Colombia's support in the coffee industry, for instance. The Dominican government wants to turn the national housing agency into a ministry. Colombia could help us by sharing its knowledge in the development of social housing. In that area, it is important to include the private sector. Colombia has successfully implemented its social housing programs, so we can learn a lot from them in that area.
How do you ensure that these cooperation initiatives are successful?
The diplomatic missions are to knock doors, and these agreements that we have signed are in the interest of both countries. It is important to involve the private companies in these agreements. I have always sought the support of the private sector for these agreements. At this embassy, we have always been in touch with the private sector. This embassy is participating in 27 different cooperation agreements. We understand each other.