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LATIN AMERICA | 17-02-2023 10:54

Colombia, Venezuela revive trade deal talks after four-year suspension

Venezuelan leader Nicolás Maduro says he is committed to establishing a joint "economic zone" with specific conditions for trade.

The leaders of Colombia and Venezuela on Thursday renewed a trade deal that had been suspended for four years, in the latest rapprochement between the neighbours.

Venezuelan leader Nicolás Maduro, in a signing ceremony with Colombian President Gustavo Petro at a bridge border crossing, said he was committed to establishing a joint "economic zone" with specific conditions for trade.

"We have to fill these bridges with trade, remove any barriers that may exist," added Petro, who was elected last year as Colombia's first-ever leftist president.

As they signed the agreement, the two leaders wore matching white shirts while standing on either side of a white line marking the border between Colombia's northern city of Cucuta and the western Venezuelan city of Urena.

The original agreement had been signed in 2011 after Venezuela's then-president Hugo Chávez chose to exit the Andean Community (CAN), a free-trade group which Colombia remains a part of.

Diplomatic ties between the two countries were severed after Petro's predecessor, the conservative Iván Duque, joined several other countries in recognising opposition leader Juan Guaidó as Venezuela's legitimate leader.

After Petro assumed power, he immediately sought to re-establish relations with the Maduro government, and Thursday's event marked the fourth face-to-face meeting between the two leaders.

The countries' 2,200-kilometre (1,400-mile) long border was fully reopened last September to vehicles.

Maduro said the agreement "updates" tariffs and trade regulations, but neither of the two presidents gave further details at the symbolic event, which included singing and dancing.

In 2008, trade between the two South American countries reached US$7.2 billion, before plummeting to around US$400 million during the diplomatic rupture.

Resumption of normalised trade has brought that figure back up to US$1.2 billion in 2022, according to estimates by the Colombian-Venezuelan Chamber of Integration (CAVECOL).

 

–– TIMES/AFP

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