Ploumen to visit Colombia with businesses and NGOs

On Monday 24 and Tuesday 25 November, Minister for Foreign and Development Cooperation Lilianne Ploumen will be in Colombia. She will be accompanied by a delegation representating 35 Dutch businesses and six NGOs, as well as MPs Sjoerd Sjoerdsma (Democrats ’66 (D66)) and Jan Vos / Mei Li Vos [noot vertaler: welke van de twee?] (Labour Party (PvdA)). The trip has two objectives: to strengthen economic ties and to support the peace process and social reforms in the country. There will be a special focus on the situation in coal mines; the minister and Dutch energy companies signed a voluntary agreement on this issue earlier this week.

With an average annual growth rate of 6.4%, Colombia is one of the fastest growing markets in Latin America. In recent years the country has become much safer. The Colombian government is making significant investments in the physical and social infrastructure, though the country is grealy in need of technical knowledge and expertise. This makes it the ideal time to visit Colombia with a trade mission, said the minister: ‘Our relationship with Colombia is undergoing a radical change, from a traditional aid relationship to a trade relationship between equal partners. This means opportunities for Dutch businesses, especially when it comes to agrifood, water and maritime technology.’

Ms Ploumen emphasised that economic development must be inclusive and sustainable: ‘Colombia can learn from the lessons of others and make a direct switch to sustainable sectors that benefit everyone, including one-man businesses. This is why we are helping Colombia to make important export products like coffee, flowers and bananas more sustainable,’ she said.

During her trip Ms Ploumen will be focusing on the peace process between the FARC and the Colombian government. In the last week, tensions have increased following the kidnapping of a Colombian general by the FARC. ‘The peace process is at a crossroads. The progress that has been made is not irreversible. It is vital that all parties return to the negotiating table,’ the minister added.

Ms Ploumen will also be visiting the mining region of Cesar together with representatives of Dutch energy companies and NGOs. The delegation will meet with mining companies, trade unions and representatives of the local community. The aim is to learn more about the environmental situation and standard of living of people living near and working in the mines, and to see what the Netherlands can do to help.

Programme

On Monday Ms Ploumen will be focusing on various trade meetings. She will also meet with the Colombian Ministers and Deputy Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Commerce, Industry & Tourism, and the Environment & Sustainable Development. On Tuesday Ms Ploumen and representatives of EON Benelux, EPZ, Essent, GDF Suez Energie Nederland, Nuon Energy and various NGOs will visit the Cesar mining region.