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Hochberg: Colombia Great Opportunity

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The president of the US Exim-Bank sees good opportunities in Latin America, including Colombia.

BY RICHARD BURNS

CARTAGENA -- Latin Business Chronicle sat down for an interview with Fred Hochberg, chairman and president of Washington, D.C. – based Ex-Im Bank during the World Economic Forum meeting in Cartagena. Appointed early in the Obama Administration, Hochberg oversees a major financial instition with up to $100 billion in Congressionally-mandated loans.

Latin Business Chronicle: How does Latin America fit into the Bank’s strategies and views of the world? 

Latin America’s economies, as emerging markets, have been growing faster as we all know than those in developed markets, by and large. Latin America now accounts for 21 percent of our total export financings, or about $14 billion in absolute terms. The region is second only to Asia – although a large part of Asia’s loans and guarantees are taken up by the aircraft sector.

What are you personal impressions of Colombia? 

Colombia represents a great opportunity for U.S. companies, who still probably have a 20th Century view of a 21st Century country at least as it concerns safety and security issues. There is a real interest throughout Colombia in doing business with the U.S.. Frankly, I see an equation of “BRIC squared” where the “C” would cover both China and Colombia! (editors note: BRIC has been the term used to describe Brazil, Russia, India and China as large, dynamic emerging markets) 

Given your enthusiasm for Colombia, can you advocate for the passage of the Free Trade Agreement with that country? 

It’s in Congress’ hands. We are coming out of an economic crisis that has been the Administration’s main focus. But regardless of an agreement, we still see opportunities in Colombia. 

How would you characterize Brazil’s role in the region and U.S. relations with that country? 

For many years, the U.S. was Brazil’s largest trading partner, until being overtaken recently by China. We have heard some concern in the Brazilian business community that this has taken place.  

We have about $3 billion debt exposure in Brazil, second only to Mexico in the region. We work, for example, very closely with Petrobras. In fact, my first overseas trip as Chairman was to Brazil. 

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