Colombia - Country Commercial Guide
Market Opportunities

Overview of best prospect sectors, major infrastructure projects, significant government procurements and business opportunities.

Last published date: 2021-11-08

Following the signing of the Peace Agreement with the FARC insurgency group in 2016 and Colombia’s improving security environment over the last two decades, the country is enjoying a period of improved stability and economic prosperity that is stimulating development in several key sectors, including infrastructure, tourism, job training, education, and rural development.  The tighter government budgets and restrictions on travel that resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic have put temporary dampers on many of these sectors’ near-term prospects, but they are expected to rebound and remain priorities of the Colombian Government, especially rural development and tourism. The travel restrictions and teleworking measures in place during the COVID-19 pandemic are generating demand for virtual tools that enable distance learning, virtual meetings, and virtual reality technologies that facilitate events like virtual trade missions and high-level engagements. Teleworking measures are also reinforcing demand for faster internet connectivity and connectivity in more remote areas of the country.

Colombia officially became a full member of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in April 2020. In its membership commitments, Colombia agreed to focus on reducing informality in the labor market and enhancing worker rights through working-hour caps and stronger protections for union activists.  Colombia is also a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO). The Colombian Government generally notifies all draft technical regulations to the WTO Committee on Technical Barriers to Trade. In August 2020, Colombia fully joined the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA). Regionally, Colombia is a member of organizations such as the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB), the Pacific Alliance, and the Andean Community of Nations (CAN).

Colombian companies have invested USD four billion in the U.S. economy, supporting at least 5,000 American jobs. U.S. companies have invested $7.8 billion in Colombia, primarily concentrated in the oil and gas, mining, and manufacturing sectors. The United States was Colombia’s leading foreign investor in 2019, with annual investment flows totaling $2.6 billion and a total FDI stock of $8.2 billion. Energy (oil, gas, and mining) account for the majority of foreign investment into Colombia from the United States, and the sector experienced several recent developments that are opening up new opportunities for U.S. companies.  In January 2019, the Ministry of Mines and Energy renewed a 20-year extension of U.S. mining concern Drummond’s La Loma mine. In February 2019, Colombia’s majority state-owned oil company Ecopetrol announced that in 2021-2022 it would spend over $130 million on three pilot projects that will use hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) to extract oil and gas, with involvement by U.S. companies such as ExxonMobil.

Colombia’s extensive ongoing infrastructure projects will generate demand for project financing, design, logistics, as well as equipment for construction of public roads and airports, water treatment, water supply, electric power generation, oil and gas exploration, pollution control technologies, port security, railway construction, transportation, security and defense items and services, and mass transit systems.  The Fifth-Generation Infrastructure initiative will bolster demand for these services in addition to creating demand for services related to river dredging, airport master plans, urban planning, and other construction and design services.

The United States Trade and Development Agency (USTDA), the Development Finance Corporation (DFC, formerly the Overseas Private Investment Corporation- OPIC), and the United States Export Import Bank (EXIM) support U.S. companies to develop export markets and make inroads in key sectors such as oil and gas, petrochemicals, renewable energy, telecommunications, transportation, and ports. USTDA grants have resulted in significant contracts being awarded to U.S. companies at Colombia’s two oil refineries, and USTDA grants for customs security and operational enhancements at the ports of Cartagena, Buenaventura, and Puerto Salgar should increase prospects for U.S. exporters.

Colombia is one of four countries in Latin America that is authorized by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (USCBP) to use its Global Entry program that allows expedited screening and processing of low-risk, international visitors at airports in the United States. President Duque also signed an agreement in 2019 with USCBP for a Preclearance facility at Bogota’s El Dorado Airport that, when implemented, would allow Colombian travelers to land in the United States as if they had flown on a domestic flight. Both of these programs will facilitate increased business and leisure travel by Colombians to the United States. Colombia continues to work with U.S. Government counterparts on the specifics of this program, especially the financing angle of the Preclearance installation.

On August 3, 2020, the Colombian Government published Decree 1090 of 2020, implementing the de minimis threshold for customs duties on shipments valued at USD 200 or less. Previously, Colombia had been applying the $200 de minimis only with respect to taxes, not customs duties. The decree resolved a longstanding open issue under the U.S.-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement and took effect on August 18, 2020. Shipments that reach Colombia through the official mail network and express delivery services, whose FOB value is equal to or less than 200 U.S. dollars, not including delivery costs, will not be subject to the payment of customs duties. In September 2021, a new law was passed limiting the application of de minimis to shipments that embark from the United States and that are not intended for commercial end-use, defined as over six items in the same class.

In addition to the eCommerce opportunities afforded under the current de minimis threshold, other opportunities for U.S. exporters include: agricultural products like cotton, wheat, and pork; automotive parts and accessories; aviation parts and accessories; computer hardware and software services; IT equipment and services; electrical power systems; safety and security equipment; food and beverage processing and packaging equipment; medical equipment; plastics materials and resins; oil and gas equipment; and mining equipment.