CARACAS (Reuters) - Trade between Colombia and Venezuela could hit between $800 million and $1 billion this year, Colombia's Trade Minister German Umana said in Caracas on Wednesday.
Trade between the neighboring countries has increased gradually since the end of last year, following the reopening of the border after Colombia's President Gustavo Petro took steps to renew relations with the government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.
"This year we estimate trade between $800 million and $1 billion and in 2024 we will be at no less than $1.8 billion dollars," Umana told journalists during a business conference.
In 2006 and 2007 trade between the two countries was worth some $6 billion. It declined due to political tensions between Bogota and Caracas, as Venezuela also fell into economic crisis.
Total trade between Colombia and Venezuela from January to July 2023 was about $441 million, representing just over 15% growth versus the year-earlier period, according to data from the Colombian National Foreign Trade Association.
Colombian businesses are interested in building strategic alliances in certain industries in Venezuela, including steel, tourism, and construction, said the minister.
"The idea is not to buy companies, but to make strategic alliances," Umana said.
Diplomatic and trade relations began a process of retuning to normalcy in September 2022 following Petro's inauguration. Colombia's president campaign included promises to restore relations with Maduro's government.
Caracas broke off relations with Bogota in 2019 after Venezuelan opposition activists tried to send aid trucks from Colombia. Maduro's government said it was a front for an attempted coup.
Previous governments in Bogota have accused Maduro of harboring Colombian rebel groups and criminals, accusations he has denied.
(Reporting by Mayela Armas; Writing by Oliver Griffin; Editing by Josie Kao)