Colombia, Venezuela form $200m fund to boost trade

BOGOTA, Colombia - The presidents of Colombia and Venezuela pledged on Saturday to invest $100 million each in a special fund in hopes of boosting cross-border trade as the world economic crisis slashes global demand for their exports.

By (AP)

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Published: Sun 25 Jan 2009, 11:18 AM

Last updated: Sun 5 Apr 2015, 10:26 PM

The cash will help create small businesses and should finance infrastructure projects along the border, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said after four hours of talks in the Caribbean port of Cartagena with his Colombian counterpart, Alvaro Uribe.

“Nobody knows where this crisis might go," Chavez told a televised news conference.

Trade between the two nations reached a record $7.2 billion in 2008, and Chavez said they should aim for $10 billion a year in 2009 and 2010. Both neighbors are looking to prevent the global slowdown from crimping commerce and spurring unemployment.

Once-rapid growth in Venezuela's oil-dependent economy is slowing with falling crude prices, while Colombia has seen textile and coffee sales fall. Caracas is Colombia's biggest trade partner after the U.S., making it especially vulnerable to a slowdown in Venezuela.

The presidents also discussed ways to spur primary manufacturing so car components can be made locally from the region's natural resources, reducing reliance on imports, Chavez added.

Venezuela agreed to consider easing quotas on Colombian automobile imports, including trucks, buses and vehicles that burn natural gas, Chavez said.

As he arrived for the meeting, Chavez was asked about his alleged support for leftist rebels who have been trying to overthrow Colombia's government.

Electronic documents found on a slain rebel's computer last year suggest he offered the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, an open-ended loan of several hundred million dollars.

“If I were backing any kind of subversive, terrorist or violent movement in Colombia I wouldn't be here," he said. “What would I do here?"

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