Colombia

Colombia is affirming its place on the economic world stage with new trade agreements and significant GDP growth.

Colombia has been an economic darling on the world stage, with real GDP growth of more than 4% from 2010 to 2014. Colombia attracted record levels of investment in 2013 and 2014, much of it in hydrocarbons. President Juan Manuel Santos, who began his second term in August 2014, has made trade a central pillar of his foreign policy and, under his leadership, the country has continued to seek out and sign trade agreements, including one with the US in 2012. Colombia is also a founding member of the Pacific Alliance, a trade group that includes Mexico, Chile and Peru.

Colombia’s main exports are in energy and mining, which make it susceptible to commodity price drops. It is the world’s fourth-largest exporter of coal and Latin America’s fourth-largest oil producer.

The government of Colombia has been in negotiations with FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia), a guerrilla group involved in armed conflict, and progress is being made. The final agreement is expected to be signed by March. If reached, a peace deal is forecasted to increase economic growth by 2%.

Although Colombia’s unemployment rate of 8.9% in 2015 is relatively high, the rate is the lowest it’s been in 14 years. The improvement is attributed to an increase in jobs in real estate, including rental and sales, followed by construction jobs.

FACTS FOR INVESTORS

1. Bogotá is the capital and the financial centre.

2. Colombia ranks 54th out of 189 countries on the World Bank’s 2015 Ease of Doing Business index.

3. In 2014 it was the world’s 57th-largest exporter and 51st-largest importer.

4. Colombia ranked 67th out of 146 countries surveyed in Forbes’ Best Countries for Business list for 2014.

BUSINESS ETIQUETTE

1. Dress it up. Dress is important in Colombia, where there’s a saying about being treated as you present yourself. Businesspeople wear suits — sports jackets and pants will not do. Women should also dress formally for business.

2. What time is it? Canadians should arrive on time, but don’t be surprised if your Colombian counterparts are 10 to 15 minutes late. Expect more delays with government officials than those in the private sector.

3. Eating on the job. Business in Colombia is often conducted over breakfast meetings that can start as early as 7 a.m. Lunch meetings are also common and run from 12:30 p.m. to 2 p.m. Lunch tends to be a formal meal and the largest of the day. And when business wraps up on a Friday, associates will often be invited for a night of dancing at a club.

4. Kissy kiss. In Colombia, a warm greeting is one kiss on the right cheek — no more than one. In a business context men will shake hands with each other.

TRAVEL TIPS

1. Weather. Due to diverse altitudes, the weather varies depending on what part of the country you’re in. Bogotá has year-round daytime temperatures of about 16 C to 18 C and it is often rainy.

2. Language. Government officials and businesspeople in the major centres speak English.

3. Tipping. Leaving tips of 10% in restaurants is customary but not expected. Make sure it’s not included on the bill.

4. Getting around. Travelling between cities is doable by bus, but low-cost airline carriers offer a much more pleasant option.

5. Currency. Colombian peso.

Colombia chart