As Colombia’s largest trading partner, the United States traditionally has been a “natural” market for U.S. products and services. The factors favoring U.S. exports are: the geographic proximity of the two countries, most Colombians who study abroad prefer to study in the United States, the large number of U.S. firms operating in Colombia, and the technological leadership that the United States maintains in many key industrial sectors. The possibility of a free trade agreement will further increase trade between the two countries.
U.S. suppliers should be aware, however, that their ability to compete in Colombia could be hampered by unfair business practices such as contraband, counterfeiting, intellectual property rights violations, under-invoicing, money laundering, and dumping. If a company has specific concerns, it should check with the U.S. Commercial Service office in Bogotá.
Quality, profitability, functionality, financing, and price all play an important role in the buying decision. After-sales service is significant, not only in the original buying decision, but also in maintaining the sales relationship. U.S. suppliers must either have their own representative with adequate operations or obtain a Colombian representative who can offer sufficient after-sales service.
To obtain better prices, guarantees, parts, and after-sales servicing, Colombians prefer to deal directly with manufacturers rather than through outside representatives, or trading companies. U.S. firms competing for major infrastructure contracts should begin early in the contracting cycle. U.S. manufacturers and construction, service, and engineering companies should initiate contact as soon as possible with government entities and private firms, which have indicated plans, or even just an interest, in developing projects. Once a project has gone to tender, it is usually too late to be competitive if the supplier company has not already involved themselves up front in the process. As mentioned in the section “Selling to the Government”, a local agent or legal representative is required for all government contracts. Therefore, U.S. companies interested in government procurement or contracts should appoint an agent or representative as quickly as possible.