Through its Business at OECD (BIAC) affiliation, USCIB has been extensively involved in representing member interest in the OECD accession process of Colombia. USCIB’s Director for Investment, Trade and Financial Services Eva Hampl traveled to Paris last week with member companies and associations, to attend meetings with OECD officials and various OECD delegations. BIAC led the global business delegation in meetings with Ken Ash, OECD director for trade and agriculture, Nicola Bonucci, OECD director for legal affairs and coordinator for accession, Catalina Crane, high-level contact for Colombia’s OECD Accession Process, and delegation representatives from the United States, including Andrew Haviland, chargé d’affaires, as well as representatives from the European Union, United Kingdom, Sweden, Switzerland, Belgium and Mexico.
Colombia started the accession process in 2013. At present, 20 of the 23 OECD Committees have approved them for accession. The Committee dealing with our outstanding issues on pharmaceuticals, distilled spirits, and trucking is the OECD Trade Committee, which will meet again at the end of November. In terms of Trade Committee procedure, the OECD concluded the Market Openness Review (MOR) a few months ago, and are now a number of drafts into the so-called Formal Opinion. Once this Formal Opinion is approved, that concludes the process in the Trade Committee. OECD accession for Colombia won’t be concluded until all Committees independently approve them.
“Our current advocacy surrounds pre-accession recommendations, which we urged the OECD Trade Committee to include in the Formal Opinion,” said Hampl. “The concept of pre-accession requirements, as opposed to post-accession requirements, is a novelty in an OECD accession, rooted in past experience of the ineffectiveness of post-accession requirements, once the leverage of joining the OECD is gone. Accordingly, we view this ask as central to resolving our various business issues. We understand that several issues are currently covered in the confidential draft Formal Opinion as part of pre-accession recommendations, though it is not yet clear which of our issues are included in those.”
The next meeting of the OECD Trade Committee will be in April 2018. Given that Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos will leave office in May 2018, there is a high likelihood that a meeting will be called by the OECD before April to resolve any final issues, if the Formal Opinion is not finalized this month.
“USCIB acknowledges the importance of the Colombian market to our companies, but we also see the precedent Colombia can set for other countries from the region that have indicated an interest in joining the OECD, such as Argentina and Brazil,” added Hampl. “While no new processes have officially started, it is important to ensure that the high standards of the OECD are met by any country looking to join. We will aggressively continue our advocacy efforts as this accession process moves forward, to ensure that as many of our priority issues are resolved as possible before Colombia joins the OECD. “