By Carlos Seijas Meneses
Caracas, Jul 8 (EFE).- The upcoming full reopening of the Venezuela-Colombia border, a campaign pledge of Colombian President-elect Gustavo Petro, has raised expectations for a more than 300 percent increase in formal trade flows starting next month.
According to forecasts by the Caracas-based Venezuelan-Colombian Economic Integration Chamber (Cavecol), the reopening expected to occur after Aug. 7 – the day of Petro’s inauguration – will enable cross-border trade totaling $1.2 billion this year.
Of that total, $876.25 million worth of trade is expected to occur between August and December, compared to $210 million in the same period of 2021, or a 317 percent increase.
At the decision of Venezuela, formal crossing points along the 2,220-kilometer (1,380-mile) Venezuela-Colombia border have been officially closed since 2015.
But Petro promised during the campaign to secure a reopening and spoke about the issue with Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro hours after winning the June 19 presidential runoff.
Maduro, for his part, said after his fellow leftist’s victory that “a new stage in relations” has been opened and urged the Colombian and Venezuelan people to be “on the same page in a search … for economic cooperation.”
The chairman of Cavecol’s board, Luis Alberto Russian, told Efe that the reopening clears the way for Colombian business leaders to invest or start companies in Venezuela.
“There’s a complementarity between the two economies … there’s a need. There are products that are produced here that are needed there and (others that are) produced there that are needed here,” Russian said.
Carlos Fernandez, the president of Venezuela’s main business chamber, Fedecamaras, told Efe that the reopening will provide a boost to bilateral trade and “help bring some improvement to both countries’ economies because of the complementarity” that exists.
“There are a lot of products that are of better quality, at a better price, (here) in Venezuela that are needed there … there are also a lot of raw materials that are produced in Colombia that are used in transformation processes in Venezuela,” he said.
A NEARLY SEVEN-YEAR CLOSURE
Maduro closed the main border crossing linking the Venezuelan cities of San Antonio and Ureña and the Colombian city of Cucuta on Aug. 19, 2015, after three members of the Venezuelan armed forces and a civilian were wounded in a clash with alleged smugglers.
The closure order was later extended to the remaining border crossings.
Between then and last year, the value of bilateral trade plunged by 70 percent from $1.35 billion to just $402 million.
Bilateral relations then soured further in February 2019, when Maduro severed diplomatic ties with the neighboring country following Colombian counterpart Ivan Duque’s move to recognize Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido as that country’s legitimate president.
But the Fedecamaras chief said bilateral trade cannot be limited to this reopening.
Instead, Fernandez said Venezuela must seek out deeper integration processes through a treaty that “facilitates, establishes and regulates” trade with “clear rules, compensation mechanisms (and) clear protocols for the entry and exit of products by category.”