US senior commercial officer surveys prospects & resources for US companies

Datamyne blog anchor Bill Armbruster conducted an extensive e-mail interview recently regarding the new US-Colombia free trade agreement with Cameron Werker, senior commercial officer with the US Embassy in Colombia.

In this first installment, they discuss prospects and resources for US exporters to Colombia.

Bill Armbruster: Which US products have the biggest growth opportunities in Colombia under the FTA?

Cameron Werker: There are three sectors that top the list of best prospects for US exporters selling to Colombia: 1) military procurement; 2) transportation infrastructure; and 3) extractive industries, such as oil & gas and mining goods and services.

Regarding transportation infrastructure, the Colombian government is allocating more of its national budget than ever before to improving all modes of transportation, from roads to rail to ports to airports. As such, the US Department of Commerce is organizing an Executive-led Trade Mission to both Colombia and Panama from May 12-17 for the express purpose of helping US companies take advantage of the tremendous opportunities in this sector.  For further information, please see the following website:

In addition to the above three sectors, we have identified the following eight areas where there are not only significant opportunities for growth, but where US companies have a competitive advantage due to superior quality aided by the benefits of the newly implemented FTA:

  • Automotive Parts and Accessories
  • Construction
  • Electrical Power Systems
  • Information Communication Technology
  • Medical Equipment
  • Food & Beverage Processing/Packaging Equipment
  • Travel & Tourism

Our Country Commercial Guide, also known as “Doing Business in Colombia,” examines “Best Prospects.” The updated guide, which we will publish on our web site by mid-February, will include a more in-depth analysis on each of these “Best Prospects.” The guide is freely available for all US exporters to access.

Armbruster: Has the Commercial Service experienced a surge of interest in Colombia since the FTA took effect, both in terms of the number of inquiries and visits by US business people?

Werker: Without a doubt. Interest in Colombia has been steadily growing over the past several years, but the FTA really shown a spotlight on the country and opened the eyes of a lot would-be exporters.

Since the implementation of the FTA on May 15, 2012, we have hosted 11 association or state-led trade missions, including groups from North Dakota, Alabama, Mississippi and Arkansas, as well as missions brought by the International Franchising Association and the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce. The last mission of 2012, led by Florida Governor Rick Scott, included more than 190 participants.  For 40 of the participating companies looking to find partners in Colombia, we arranged 251 one-on-one matchmaking meetings, the results of which, according to Enterprise Florida, netted roughly $40 million in immediate deals.

Our 2013 calendar is already filling up with inquiries from Maine, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts. Nevertheless, I encourage any company or group with an interest in exporting to Colombia to contact our office so that we can explore how we can help them meet their goals and objectives.

Armbruster: To what extent is this interest coming from small and medium companies?

Werker: The majority of the companies we work with on an individual basis as well as those participating in the above-referenced trade missions are small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). The Commercial Service specializes in finding distributers, agents and representatives for SMEs, which exponentially multiplies the sales impact a company can achieve versus trying to conduct medium to long-terms sales front behind a desk in the US.

Armbruster: Can you tell to what extent this interest is coming from companies that may be new to exporting or who currently export to just one or two countries?

Werker: In the US, it is common that many SMEs are new to export or are exporting to one or two markets.  We see that trend here with the companies with which we work.

Colombia is a great market for companies that may only be exporting to one or two markets and looking to expand their reach due to the receptiveness to US products and the relative ease of doing business here. Moreover, there is an advantageous regional aspect in that neighboring countries such as Panama and Peru have overlapping “best prospects” with Colombia so that a US company could easily target two to three markets at a time, given the close proximity of these countries to each other and that both have FTAs with the US.

Coming Monday: Werker on US-Colombia FTA: Part 2 Remaining Obstacles


Cameron Werker is Senior Commercial Officer for the US Department of Commerce’s Foreign Commercial Service in Bogota, Colombia. Mr. Werker joined Commerce in 1998 as an International Trade Specialist administering US anti-dumping duty law. He joined the Commercial Service in 1999. His first assignment was to Boston’s US Export Assistance. He served as Commercial Officer in Beijing and in Belgrade before his current posting to Bogota.

Cameron Werker can be reached at [email protected] or 571-275-2519.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of its author and do not purport to reflect the opinions or views or Descartes Datamyne. In addition, this article is for general information purposes only and it’s not intended to provide legal advice or opinions of any kind and my not be used for professional or commercial purposes. No one should act, or refrain from acting, based solely on this article without first seeking appropriate legal or other professional advice.

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