Mexico City – Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos marked Monday's official start of his state visit to Mexico by hailing the enactment of a revised bilateral trade accord and touting the "enormous" opportunities his nation offers Mexican business.
Santos, who arrived in the country over the weekend and visited the Mayan ruins at Chichen Itza together with his Mexican counterpart Felipe Calderon, acclaimed the renegotiation of the trade deal during a breakfast for business owners and executives in Mexico City.
The Colombian president recalled that Colombia's 1996 trade treaty with Mexico was one of the first such pacts that Bogota signed.
Since it went into effect, annual Mexican exports to Colombia increased twelvefold, from $306 million to $3.76 billion, while Colombian exports to Mexico have surged from $121 million to $795 million.
The new treaty "has an important significance because it will set the legal framework for continued progress in strengthening our trade relations," Santos said.
Colombia has a "privileged" position on the world scene, he said.
Excluded from the new trade agreement will be coffee, plantains, sugar, tobacco and cacao, which Colombians export to a value of $2.83 billion, but which are a sensitive point for Mexican farmers.
Mexican officials say they expect the updated trade pact to boost their country's exports to Colombia to $9 billion a year while generating 60,000 new jobs over the next five years.
After the meeting with executives, Santos laid a floral tribute before the Monument to the Child Heroes of Mexico, and at noon attended the welcoming ceremony offered by Calderon at the presidential residence of Los Pinos.
At that reception, Calderon stressed the "high degree of political understanding" between the two governments and said that during the visit, the two nations will strengthen their ties and "undertake new projects."