Colombia: Strong Fundamentals, Global Risk
By mid-2009 Colombian President Alvaro Uribe had ended decades of virtual civil war and strengthened the business climate, but he faced tough economic challenges. Though he had instituted prominent market reforms and brought inflation down sharply, Colombia seemed stuck in a middle ground, industrially behind Brazil or Chile but ahead of poorer Latin American countries. Traditional exports--coal, coffee, oil--still comprised more than half the total, while manufactured exports comprised only a fifth. Public investment in transport and other infrastructure--a perpetual obstacle to growth in mountainous Colombia--remained too low. A major ambition of Uribe or his possible like-minded successor was to secure U.S. Congressional approval of a free trade agreement signed in 2006. But would it really help Colombia diversify its economy? Colombia already had access to the U.S. market but still had a relatively closed economy compared with neighbors such as Mexico or Chile.