Between January and May, Colombia accumulated a deficit in its trade balance of US$6,489.9 million, 20.5% higher than the US$5,386.3 million in the same period last year.
The trade imbalance is the main reason for the large current account deficit of the fourth largest economy in Latin America, which last year more than doubled to 17,833 million dollars, equivalent to 5.7% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
The Central Bank estimates that the trade deficit would be reduced to 5.1% of GDP in 2022.
“The issue of exports for the government is the number one priority in terms of productive development,” Ocampo said during a presentation at the annual congress of the National Association of Colombian Entrepreneurs (ANDI), in the Caribbean city of Cartagena.
“The trade deficit has deteriorated, this is a serious problem (…), we continue to depend heavily on oil and coal as exports and we have to radically diversify, it is a major challenge,” he added.
Oil and coal exports reached US$ 15,604 million during the first semester and represented 54.5% of total Colombian foreign sales.
Additionally, Ocampo announced that he is willing to discuss changes in a tax reform project that he presented to Congress, which is key to financing the social programs of the government of leftist President Gustavo Petro and reducing the large fiscal deficit of some 80 billion pesos.
“We can debate all these issues and analyze if there are better solutions, but the alternative is not to lower (the amount),” Ocampo said. “That alternative does not exist.”
The unions have warned that the tax initiative, which in principle contemplates additional taxes for the business sector for around 12 billion pesos a year (US $ 2,808 million), could impact private investment plans.
A large part of the collection on the business sector would be concentrated in the extractive industry, on which Petro has announced that it will not allow the signing of new oil exploration contracts.