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Colombia

Executive Summary

With markedly improved security conditions, a market of 49 million people, an abundance of natural resources, and an educated and growing middle-class, Colombia continues to be an attractive destination for foreign investment in Latin America.  In the World Bank’s 2019 Doing Business Report, Colombia ranked 65 out of 190 countries in the “Ease of Doing Business” index.

Colombia’s legal and regulatory systems are generally transparent and consistent with international norms.  The country has a comprehensive legal framework for business and foreign direct investment (FDI). The U.S.-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement (CTPA), which took effect on May 15, 2012, has strengthened bilateral trade and investment.  Through the CTPA and several international conventions and treaties, Colombia’s dispute settlement mechanisms have improved. Weaknesses include protection of intellectual property rights (IPR), as Colombia has yet to implement certain IPR-related provisions of the CTPA.  Colombia was on the U.S. Trade Representative’s Special 301 Priority Watch List in 2018.

The Colombian government has made a concerted effort to develop efficient capital markets, attract investment, and create jobs.  However, the government has struggled both to replace the lost energy-sector revenues after the price of oil, its largest export, collapsed in 2014, and to adjust to a concomitant devaluation of the peso.  President Ivan Duque took office in August 7, 2018. The new administration passed a tax reform on December 2018, aimed at alleviating the tax burden on companies, increasing private investment, and strengthening economic growth.

Restrictions on foreign ownership in specific sectors still exist.  FDI decreased 20.4 percent from 2017 to 2018, with more than half of the 2018 inflow dedicated to the extractives, finance, and transportation sectors.  Roughly half of the Colombian workforce is in the informal economy, and unemployment registered at 9.7 percent for 2018.

Security in Colombia has improved significantly in recent years, with kidnappings down from 3,572 cases in 2000 to 170 cases in 2018.  Since the 2016 peace agreement between the government and the country’s largest terrorist organization, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), Colombia has experienced a significant decrease in terrorist activity.  Negotiations between the National Liberation Army (ELN), another terrorist organization, and the government have stalled, and the ELN continues its attacks on energy infrastructure and security forces. The ELN is one of several powerful narco-criminal operations that poses a threat to commercial activity and investment, especially in rural zones outside of government control.  Despite improved security conditions, coca production is at the highest levels since the 1990s.

Corruption remains a significant challenge in Colombia.  The World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Index (2018) ranked Colombia 60 out of 137 countries.  The Colombian government continues to work on improving its business climate, but U.S. and other foreign investors have voiced complaints about non-tariff and bureaucratic barriers to trade and investment at the national, regional, and municipal levels.

Table 1: Key Metrics and Rankings

Measure Year Index/Rank Website Address
TI Corruption Perceptions Index 2018 99 of 180 http://www.transparency.org/research/cpi/overview 
World Bank’s Doing Business Report 2019 65 of 190 http://www.doingbusiness.org/en/rankings
Global Innovation Index 2018 63 of 126 https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/analysis-indicator 
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions) 2017 $ 7,200 http://www.bea.gov/international/factsheet/ 
World Bank GNI per capita 2017 $ 5,890 http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD 
Investment Climate Statements
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