Jul. 6, 2015

HE María Ángela Holguín Cuéllar

UAE, Dubai

HE María Ángela Holguín Cuéllar

Minister , Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Colombia

TBY talks to HE María Ángela Holguín Cuéllar, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Colombia, on aspects of relations between Colombia and the UAE, visa exemptions, and encouraging bilateral trade.


María Ángela Holguín Cuéllar is a graduate of Political Science and has two decades of public and private sector experience. She has held high positions in the government, including at the Office of the President of Republic, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Office of the Inspector General of the Nation. As part of her broad professional experience in the diplomatic field, María Ángela Holguín Cuellár has held, among others, the positions of Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs of Colombia and Deputy Minister in 1998, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of the Colombian Mission to the UN from 2004–06, Ambassador of Colombia to Venezuela from 2002–04, and Commercial Attaché of the Embassy of Colombia in France in 1992. In addition, she was made Coordinator for Colombia of the IADB Assembly and Inter-American Investment Corporation in 1997, and Executive Director of the Latin American and Caribbean Regional Conference on Early Childhood in the same year.

How would you characterize the bilateral relationship between the UAE and Colombia?

Colombia and the UAE established diplomatic relations in 1976. In recent years, both countries have opened embassies in their respective capitals and this, together with high-level visits, has strengthened our bilateral relationship. I have met the Minister of Foreign Affairs, HH Sheikh Abdullah, on several occasions, in Colombia, in the UAE, and at the UN, and we have discussed different bilateral political and economic issues. We have also signed several agreements and MOUs that provide concrete actions and roadmaps for different sectors in both countries. The UAE co-sponsored the Colombian initiative on sustainable development goals (SDGs) that ended up being the most concrete result of the UN Conference Rio+20. The SDGs are now the basic framework for the UN's post-2015 development agenda and will replace and give enhanced continuation to the Millennium Development Goals. Similarly, Colombia was the first country in the world to support Dubai's bid to host the World Expo in 2020.

In what areas are Colombia and the UAE strengthening ties?

Despite geographical distance, the two countries have shown great political will to strengthen ties in areas such as trade, investment, energy, education, culture, and sport. Since the opening of the Embassy of Colombia in Abu Dhabi in 2012, exports from Colombia to the UAE have increased from $5 million to $100 million over the past year. Although this is still a modest figure, it shows the great opportunities that all exporting sectors have identified, and I am convinced that in trade and investment we can do many things together.

How does the recent UAE visa exemption for Colombian diplomatic and official passport holders bring the two countries closer together?

My visit to the UAE last November within the framework of the Sir Bani Yas Forum was a great opportunity to once again meet with the Foreign Minister. We reviewed the bilateral agenda and undertook three agreements: one to establish a mechanism for political consultations; another on a Joint Committee on Bilateral Cooperation; and a third on visa exemptions for holders of Diplomatic, Official, and Special passports. All visa-free mechanisms facilitate contact between nationals of different countries. In the future, we hope to establish a visa-free system similar to those we have set up with other countries. In 2011, Colombia eliminated tourist and short-visit visas for UAE citizens.

How important is it to attract investment from the UAE and what areas are particularly attractive?

Colombia is one of the most attractive countries in Latin America for foreign investment, and the figures speak for themselves. FDI increased from $6.758 billion in 2010 to $16.2 billion in 2013. According to the World Bank 2014 Doing Business report, Colombia is one of the most business-friendly and reforming countries in Latin America. The Colombian government is committed to offering incentives to boost investment, investor stability, and, most importantly, legal stability. In Colombia there are specific sectors that attract the attention of foreign investors, namely mining, energy, infrastructure, communications technologies, agriculture, industry, and tourism. Colombia is a new emerging economy determined to become the most educated and developed in Latin America over the coming years.