Santos to improve ties with L.America, boost trade with Asia: advisor

09:53, June 21, 2010      

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Colombia's presidential candidate Juan Manuel Santos greets members of the media after casting his vote during presidential elections in Bogota June 20, 2010. (Xinhua/Reuters Photo)

Colombia's president-elect will improve ties with Latin American countries and boost trade with Asian and Pacific countries, according to his chief economic advisor.

During his four-year term starting Aug. 7, Juan Manuel Santos will also enhance the free-trade mechanism agreed upon with the Middle East and Africa, said Juan Carlos Echeverri.

Santos was declared winner of the run-off presidential polls after garnering 69.06 percent of the votes. His opponent Antanas Mockus got 27.5 percent of the votes.

"Strategically, we need to open a market for our products," his advisor told Xinhua, adding that special attention would be paid to the Asia-Pacific region where "we can exploit the great potential" of Colombian products.

During his election campaign, Santos said it was vital to promote foreign investment in his country and link the Colombian economy with the international markets, particularly the dynamic ones in Asia.

"The goal is to exploit the huge demand for food in Asia and the world in the next 40 years," the president-elect said.

Santos pledged to continue with the economic policies of incumbent President Alvaro Uribe, promising to increase market access to the Asia-Pacific region.

His key objective, according to his chief economic advisor, is to increase trade, investment and political ties with that region, especially with China, through accession to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC).

China has become Colombia's second largest trading partner, after the United States.

Colombia will face two main challenges at the start of Santos's tenure. One will be the U.S. Congress's approval of the free-trade agreement between the two countries and the other will be the replacement of the Venezuelan market, which used to be the second largest destination for Colombian exports.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez froze trade and diplomatic relations with Colombia in August last year, to protest Colombia's signing of a military agreement with the United States, which allows the U.S. forces to use seven of Colombia's military bases.

The accord has also soured Colombia's relations with other Latin American countries.

"We'll do everything possible to strengthen relations so they can come back to being cordial and beneficial for everyone," the advisor quoted the president-elect as promising.

Colombia also aims to mend its ties with Ecuador, with which diplomatic relations were broken in March 2008 after the Colombian military bombed a FARC guerrilla camp in the Ecuadorian territory when Santos was defense minister.

The advisor said the president-elect wanted to visit Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa "and see how we can continue improving, because the relations have been improving."

The president-elect has also said he will maintain the Colombian military for defense instead of offense.

Source: Xinhua

"We will endow the military forces with dissuasive capacity, but never for aggression. We will build a coordination center for border security," he said.


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