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Shift to the Right – What does it mean for Business in South America?

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Across South America, the trend towards electing nationalist governments is on the rise, with Colombia and Brazil two prime examples. Iván Duque Márquez, elected in August 2018, and Jair Bolsonaro, sworn in on January 1, 2019, are both pro-business leaders and despite their short terms of office, they have already made a splash in both business and political circles.Below, we take a closer look at the ‘shift to the right’, and what it means for businesses and investors across South America as we head into 2019 and beyond.

Business in South America
Business in South America (Source: https://unsplash.com/photos/tncsQE63ENU)

Strong economic ties

President Duque in Colombia may only have been in office for five months, but he is already making some big changes to the way his country is run. In a bid to boost the economy, Iván has appointed established and experienced economists and lawyers to key posts in his government, such as Andrés Valencia as minister of agriculture, Nancy Gutierrez as the minister of interior, and José Manuel Restrepo as minister of commerce and industry. It is clear that these appointments did not happen by chance – the President wants to create a pro-business government and is utilizing some of the country’s top talent to make it happen.


After his appointment, Duque spent time visiting nations such as the United States, meeting with key leaders to discuss issues such as drug trafficking, the Venezuelan crisis, and perhaps most importantly, forging new economic ties between Colombia and the USA. At a time when the United States’ relations with Mexico, China, Russia, and Korea are at a low, there has never been a better opportunity to create new business relationships and offer both Colombia and the United States access to each others’ people, economy, and goods.

Duque has also been vocal about the fact he supports foreign direct investment, and that he wants to increase FDI in the country, and that he wants to reinforce ties with some of the country’s traditional allies, as well as secure international support for his party’s agenda. As such, the jurisdiction has never appeared so attractive to both foreign and local investors, who are hedging their bets on economic growth as trading relationships and incentives are announced. In short, there’s never been a more exciting time to do business in Colombia.

With the nation dedicated to strengthening its ties with countries across the Americas and indeed around the world, Colombia’s economy will no doubt continue to flourish. In 2018, its economy grew by 2.7%, and in the year previous, grew 2.8%. The country added US$309.19 billion to its economy in 2018, and with new investments and opportunities on the way, we expect to see huge economic growth surges that will put the country on the investment map.

Righting previous wrongs

With the public supporting politicians with a strong business background, it is clear that South America’s new leaders want to right the wrongs of previous administrations. Nowhere is this truer than with Bolsonaro in Brazil. The right-wing politician has the backing of several high-profile figures both in his home country and overseas and is already making changes.

One of Bolsonaro’s biggest ambitions is to open Brazil to investors from countries around the world and to strengthen the commercial relationships the country holds with other North American territories. Like Colombia, Brazil can benefit from strained relations between the United States and Mexico, and President Trump has expressed an interest in discussions.

However, Mexico itself should not be overlooked as a future trading ally for Brazil, alongside Canada, which could help the country to achieve economic growth. At a time when US investment in South America is on the increase, the challenge Bolsonaro and his cabinet now faces is persuading investors to choose Brazil over other Latin American countries, but with the right incentives and infrastructure investments, that shouldn’t be a problem.

How can businesses benefit?

For South American businesses already in countries with right-wing politicians, opportunities will naturally arise as governments set out new trading plans and investors make their mark. As a savvy entrepreneur, you should focus on positioning your business as a key player in your niche and attempt to forge relationships with businesses in countries around the world.

Entrepreneurs yet to enter into markets such as Colombia and Brazil should do so as soon as they can, as investments and government incentives will no doubt increase competition and make opportunities harder to exploit. There’s no doubting 2019 will be a positive year for North and South American trade, so the sooner you get started in South America, through incorporation and expansion, the more likely you are to benefit from a shift to the right.

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