Colombia - International trade

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One of the most striking aspects of Colombia's economic performance over the years has been the change in the export mix. Once predominantly a coffee economy, by the year 2000 coffee accounted for only 8.43 percent of foreign exchange earnings, while oil and related products jumped to 35.34 percent and manufacturing products accounted for 39.54 percent of exports. However, Colombia still exports oil and coffee to the developed world (the United States, Japan, Germany, and Belgium), while most of its exports to countries such as Venezuela, Mexico, and Ecuador are manufactured products.

At the same time, the relative importance of Colombia's partners has also changed. The United States remains the main trading partner, receiving 37.2 percent of Colombia's exports and providing 32 percent of Colombia's imports in 1998. However, the role of Venezuela as a trading partner has increased substantially. In 1996 the United States was the destination of US$5,991 million of exports, while Venezuela had climbed to US$1,178 million. Ecuador accounted for US$413 million, Germany US$353 million, Peru US$338 million, and Japan US$216 million. This trend diminished after 1997, mostly due to the recession on both sides of the Venezuela-Colombia border. The year 2000 has shown a relative recovery between both partners.

More than 70 percent of Colombian exports to the United States are primary products such as food (mainly coffee, bananas, cut flowers, tuna, shrimp, and sugar), and fuel (petroleum and coal). The United States also holds the largest share of foreign direct investment , with US$4.3 billion, or 28.1 percent of the estimated total direct foreign investment of US$15.4 billion.

Imports to Colombia also grew extensively during the 1990s, creating a trade deficit until 1998. Through

Trade (expressed in billions of US$): Colombia
Exports Imports
1975 1.465 1.495
1980 3.924 4.739
1985 3.552 4.141
1990 6.766 5.590
1995 10.126 13.853
1998 N/A N/A
SOURCE: International Monetary Fund. International Financial Statistics Yearbook 1999.

September 1999, Colombia's overall trade balance has swung from a US$2.7 billion deficit to a US$1.1 billion surplus, while the U.S.-Colombia trade balance swung from a US$292 million U.S. surplus to a US$1.8 billion deficit. The type of imports also show the overall changes in the Colombian economy. While during most of the twentieth century imports were mainly consumer goods , and later capital goods , the trend has changed. According to DANE, in the year 2000 21.9 percent of imports were capital goods, 51.99 percent were raw materials, 8.57 percent were transportation equipment, and 18.72 percent consisted of consumer goods.

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