Volume 44, Number 174,
July-September 2013
Colombia: Commercial Integration
and Trade Imbalances in the Pacific Basin
Jaime Torres*
Date received: August 15, 2012. Date accepted: February 18, 2013

International commerce between Colombia and the Pacific Basin is clearly detrimental to the former, producing weak conditions for production and exports. This relationship pattern is of inter-industrial trade, whereby Colombia exports raw materials and imports capital goods and manufactured items, repeating the scheme developed in the past with other industrialized countries. This article analyzes the behavior of the commercial balance in Colombia, the manufacturing export and import indices, job creation, competitive limits for the nation and a return to producing primary commodities.

Keywords: : Colombia, Asia-Pacific, Producing Primary Commodities, Industrial Policy, Inter-Industrial Commerce.

International commercial dynamics between Pacific Basin countries and Colombia have weakened the latter nation’s productive and export circumstances, generating a broad trade deficit. Even worse, the patterns of commercial relations are clearly inter-industry, where Colombia exports raw materials and imports capital and manufactured goods, repeating the pattern developed in the past with other industrialized countries. Companies that have taken on a leading role in exports from Colombia to Asia are fundamentally subsidiary mining firms of multinational corporations, confirming the tenets of the “new theory of international commerce,” which states that large firms manage foreign commerce in the world, including trade between emerging nations. This article shows the commercial balance by sector between Colombia and countries of the Asian Pacific, analyzing penetration rates of manufacturing exports and imports from a variety of economic sectors and their effect on job creation.


The Pacific Basin is made up of a total of 40 nations that generate over 45% of global production. This text aims to analyze the commercial relationship between Colombia and countries of the Asian Pacific located to the West of the ocean (Japan, South Korea, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam and Australia), excluding Russia and countries of the Americas.

Commercial relations of Colombia with countries of the Asian Pacific – besides Japan – were minimal until the 1990s, but have grown rapidly with the onset of the new millennium and are quickly becoming an important source of global commerce for the country. In 2010, China was the second largest provider of products to Colombia, following the United States.

Figure 1 shows the structure of the commercial balance, “Colombia and Countries of the Asian Pacific,” where imports into Colombia in 2010 were 2.6 times higher than the nation’s exports. Imports account for 88% of industrial goods, such as machinery, inputs, cars and appliances. This category showed a high annual growth rate (21%), whose amount has gone up by nine times since 2000. In 2011, the share rose to 22% of all imports into the country, equaling 12.079 billion dollars.

Colombian exports to the Asian Pacific Basin also grew rapidly during this time period (24.6% annually), increasing the share of the total from a scarce 2.8% from 2000-2002 to 8.6% in 2010. Of these, 77% of exports are of primary products: oil, coal, iron-nickel and coffee. The global commercial balance produces a deficit for Colombia, annually exceeding 5 billion dollars over the past three years. There is thus a typical inter-industry relationship between Colombia and Asia, whereby one country exports the primary products (77% of the total) and imports industrial products (88%), a similar commercial pattern to that with the United States and Europe in the twentieth century. The majority of East Asian countries also maintained this pattern during that time period, but thanks to intense and continued industrialization processes and technological innovation, their commercial structures have changed radically.

Figure 1. Colombia and Countries of the Asian Pacific. Commercial Balance,
Total 2000-2010
Source: Ministry of Foreign Trade and Tourism of Colombia, statistics, calculated by the author.
<https://www.mincomercio.gov.co/publicaciones.php?id=10422>, consulted on June 29, 2012.

*Pacific Basin countries are understood as those located in Asia and Australia with which Colombia has major commercial relations:
    Japan, South Korea, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam and Australia.
** Tenured professor at the Faculty of International Commerce – Universidad de Bogotá Jorge Tadeo Lozano, Colombia.
     E-mail: jaime.torresg@utadeo.edu.co

Published in Mexico, 2012-2017 © D.R. Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM).
PROBLEMAS DEL DESARROLLO. REVISTA LATINOAMERICANA DE ECONOMÍA, Volume 49, Number 193, April-June 2018 is a quarterly publication by the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Ciudad Universitaria, Coyoacán, CP 04510, México, D.F. by Instituto de Investigaciones Económicas, Circuito Mario de la Cueva, Ciudad Universitaria, Coyoacán,
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