PEREIRA, Colombia — Melvin Torres, director of Western Hemisphere trade for World Trade Center Arkansas, described this year’s World Trade Centers Association Latin American Regional Meeting as a “strong platform” for expanding exports from the Natural State.
“Given that half of our exports go to this region, our presence at these international business events is essential for Arkansas’ export growth to continue,” Torres said.
Torres, the sole representative not from Latin America, joined 25 other World Trade Center members in Pereira, Colombia, earlier this month to discuss trade opportunities in Latin America. Panels focused on an array of economic issues impacting Latin America — from trade, tourism, to future development of the region.
“These events also allow us to pinpoint export opportunities — not only at the regional level, but on a global scale,” Torres added
Torres also spoke with chambers of commerce, business owners, local political officials and World Trade Center Association leaders to continue propelling the strong growth between Arkansas and Latin American countries.
Arkansas’ top five customers from Latin America in 2018 were Mexico, Haiti, Brazil, Guatemala and Colombia, respectively. Agricultural commodities, machine parts and chemicals accounted for the bulk of the state’s overall exports. The Natural State exported $870 million to Mexico last year, up from $851 million during 2017, according to the Center’s international trade and jobs summary for 2019.
Mexico is Arkansas’ second-largest export customer — behind Canada — and was responsible for 14% of all exports last year. Colombia, meanwhile, accounted for $70 million in trade in 2018, an 11% boost from the prior year.
“Colombia is a key export market for Arkansas and we need to continue growing it for our small businesses who account for approximately 80% of exporters in our state.”
In its 2019 overview of Colombia, the World Bank praised the South American country for its “prudent macroeconomic and fiscal management.”
“(D)espite economic downturns (Colombia) has maintained its investment grade rating since 2013,” the bank noted, adding, “accommodative monetary policy and favorable financial conditions in the domestic market will also support growth.”
“Continuing to grow ties and trade in this area is crucial,” Torres said, “for the state’s economy through exports, job creation and retention.”
The mission of the World Trade Center Arkansas is to grow trade and increase Arkansas exports by connecting Arkansas businesses to the world through international trade services. The Center is part of the University of Arkansas and serves as the trade promotion arm for the Arkansas Economic Development Commission. For more information and valuable updates, please follow the Center on Facebook and Twitter or subscribe to the World Trade Center Arkansas newsletter.