Volume 44, Number 174,
July-September 2013
Colombia: Commercial Integration
and Trade Imbalances in the Pacific Basin
Jaime Torres

The clear limits that prevent Colombia from competing with East Asian countries seem to force the former nation into seeking a space within “Latin American integration” in which to develop its competitive advantages, expand its market share, create jobs and support its manufacturing and agro-industrial sectors. Recent initiatives from nations in the Latin American Pacific to integrate (Chile, Peru, Colombia and Mexico, with Panama and Costa Rica as observers), whose establishing agreement was signed in the Fourth Presidential Summit in Atacama (Chile) on June 12, 2012, could be a positive step, as long as it serves to foster the industrial policies needed for solid growth in the productive and export capacities of the Colombian business sector along with that of neighboring nations.

Its successful implementation would also imply a transformation in the development model that currently favors large multinational mining companies, to the detriment of the agro-industrial sector. The challenges that must be met are as follows: 1) re-evaluating the currency, 2) a rapid increase in productivity for small and medium-sized enterprises, 3) building efficient communication infrastructure and 4) and creating a democratic social and political climate that fosters comprehensive development for the country. The next obstacle will be whether Latin American leadership can direct dynamic integration, globalization, employment and the democratic distribution of income.


The scarcity of Colombian manufacture exports to the Pacific Basin nations and its high commercial deficit with this region show a direct relationship to various components of the same situation:

  1. The weakness of the current Colombian industrial complex only means that few of its companies are able to compete on the international stage.
  2. The type of commercial relationship between Colombia and Asia is a repeat in the twenty-first century of the inter-industrial commercial pattern Colombia maintained with industrialized nations in the previous century, with the difference that relations with Asia do not have to do with imperial or neocolonial motives, but rather with different development strategies.
  3. The demand of East Asian countries for large volumes of processed foods still has not found adequate productive capacity in Colombian industry.
  4. The way in which past Colombian governments have strengthened the mining export strategy has led to increased inflow of foreign direct investment and exports. One of the consequences of this has been the stable currency re-evaluation of the peso since 2004 (so-called Dutch disease), with an effect that has been unfavorable for high added value exports.
  5. Concentration of investment in costly mining projects has meant that Colombia has had scarce technological training, development of infrastructure with low social utility, low linkage with other economic sectors, weak job creation and widespread violence to control exploitation zones.
  6. Other nations in South America are heading down a similar path as Colombia with their productive reprimarization, following a neoliberal economic model that assigns a subordinate role to the State and the dynamic generation of technology, jobs and income from local industry.
  7. An active industrial policy will lay the groundwork to recover a dynamic role in the domestic and global economies, which will mean altering the primacy of mining and energy export investment in raw materials, to transform this into ambitious programs that translate into industrial development supported by the State with widespread social and economic effects.
  8. Regional integration strategies, such as the Latin American Pacific Alliance – are favorable alternatives for developing greater domestic productive capacity to sustain and expand local markets, increase competitive capacity in foreign markets and strengthen industrial, technological and job development. However, the current economy based on exploitation will have to undergo serious changes.

Published in Mexico, 2012-2017 © D.R. Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM).
PROBLEMAS DEL DESARROLLO. REVISTA LATINOAMERICANA DE ECONOMÍA, Volume 48, Number 191, October-December 2017 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,
CP 04510, México, D.F. Tel (52 55) 56 23 01 05 and (52 55) 56 24 23 39, fax (52 55) 56 23 00 97, www.probdes.iiec.unam.mx, revprode@unam.mx. Journal Editor: Alicia Girón González. Reservation of rights to exclusive use of the title: 04-2012-070613560300-203, ISSN: pending. Person responsible for the latest update of this issue: Minerva García, Circuito Maestro Mario de la Cueva s/n, Ciudad Universitaria, Coyoacán, CP 04510, México D.F., latest update: Nov 13th, 2017.
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