Two Auto Care Association executives participated in Trade Winds – the Americas Business Development Conference and Trade Mission last week in Panama City, Panama and Bogotá, Colombia, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Commerce. The 2014 Trade Winds program included an Americas-focused business forum consisting of regional and industry-specific conference sessions as well as pre-arranged consultations with U.S. Foreign Commercial Service Senior Officers representing commercial markets throughout the region.
Andres Castrillon, director, international trade, and Larry Northup, senior director, membership, participated in mission stops to Panama and Colombia from May 14-22. Castrillon and Northup spent several days in Panama City and Bogotá meeting with several trade associations, chambers of commerce, importers, distributors and government officials.
“Trade Winds was an incredible opportunity to network with the regions’ leading industry and government officials, and experienced U.S. and global companies, to identify opportunities and market entry strategies for our members,” said Castrillon.
“While some markets in Latin America remain relatively closed to U.S. exports, others are thriving and present great potential expansion opportunities not only for auto parts exports, but also potentially for our distribution and retail members,” said Northup.
The Auto Care Association’s Executive Committee has identified Latin America as a priority export region for its membership. With an increasing number of Free Trade Agreements having entered into force between the United States and Central/South American countries in the past few years, trade between the U.S. and Latin America is booming. Latin American countries now constitute some of the largest markets for U.S. exports. For example, in 2012, Colombia was the third largest market in Latin America and twenty-second largest market globally. Additionally, the five countries being visited during the Trade Winds mission (Colombia, Peru, Chile, Panama and Ecuador) account for approximately U.S. $60 billion worth of exports of a wide range of products from the United States. These are also strong export markets when looking exclusively at auto parts, with Chile alone accounting for U.S. $280 million in exports in 2013.
Colombia, Peru and Chile are some of the fastest growing economies in the region, integrating well within the global economy by opening up their markets to many countries and maintaining a stable political and business environment. U.S. products enjoy a high level of acceptance in these countries and the U.S. has the dominant share of imports. According to projections, continued growth and investment in these countries is unlimited.
In addition to participating in Trade Winds, the Auto Care Association is sponsoring a pavilion at the upcoming Latin Auto Parts Expo, July 9-11, 2014, in Panama City, Panama. Forty Auto Care Association members will exhibit in the pavilion and participate in networking and education sessions with key automotive contacts from throughout the region.
“While the Panamanian auto care industry is robust, the real business opportunity presented by Panama is its position as a hub for commerce throughout Latin America,” said Castrillon. “The Latin Auto Parts Expo is a great way for members to reach this potentially lucrative market."