Claire Trevett

Claire Trevett is the New Zealand Herald’s deputy political editor.

Ground-breaking visit aims to build links with Bogota

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos. Photo / AP
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos. Photo / AP

Prime Minister John Key begins the second leg of his Latin American tour today, stopping off in Bogota for a historic visit - the first by a New Zealand leader to Colombia.

Although Colombia is renowned for its silver, gold and emeralds, its trade with New Zealand is mainly in more pragmatic goods such as coffee, cruise vessels and insecticides.

There are minimal links between the two countries, but Mr Key said it was worth building those.

"Colombia is quite a big country and it's growing very rapidly ... So it's likely to emerge as quite a significant player over time in Latin America.

"They are quite like-minded on matters like trade and the like. So we are hopeful we can make real progress in Colombia."

Colombia is pro-free trade and signed an agreement with the United States last year.

However, its troubles have meant it is yet to attain the OECD status it is hoping for. It is likely Mr Key will reveal New Zealand's stance on that during his meeting with Mr Santos.

Colombia could also raise its wish to join Apec and possibly sign up to the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Currently, neither country has a diplomatic base in the other.

Colombia's representative in Canberra looks after New Zealand, and New Zealand relies on its embassy in Chile to look after Colombian interests. But Colombia is expected to appoint a consul-general in New Zealand soon.

President Juan Manuel Santos, 61, has been in office since August 2010 and has made fiscal reforms and changes to allow Colombia to benefit more from revenue for oil and mining.

Colombia

*Fourth largest Latin American economy after Brazil, Mexico and Argentina.
*Population: 47 million
*Trade: New Zealand imports were worth $19.6 million from Colombia in 2012 - including $7.5 million of coffee. Other imports include cruise vessels, insecticides, ambergris. New Zealand exported gods worth $13.3 million last year.
*Visitors to NZ from Colombia in 2012 totalled 928.

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