Colombian Foreign Affairs Minister María Angela Holguín and her Venezuelan counterpart, Nicolás Maduro, agreed on Monday to a three-month extension of bilateral trade preferences in the hope that a permanent agreement will be concluded by the end of January 2012.
During a joint press conference in Bogotá’s Palacio de San Carlos, the officials said the extension was approved so as not to impede trade flows while details for the broader deal are being worked out. “We agreed that we will extend the preferences while negotiating the deal, which is on track…we hope it will be ready this year,” said Holguin. The ministers also announced that Presidents Juan Manuel Santos and Hugo Chávez will meet next month in Caracas.
Commerce between the two neighbors collapsed in 2009 when Venezuela froze trade relations to protest a military agreement between the United States and Colombia. The overall relationship has improved since President Santos took over for former President Alvaro Úribe in 2010.
This is the second time tariff preferences have been extended since they expired last April, following Venezuela’s withdrawal from the regional trade bloc Comunidad Andina de Naciones (CAN).