Rising above the Port of Charleston this holiday weekend are the tall sails of the ARC Gloria.
While she is mainly used to train new sailors of the Colombian Navy, she also travels to showcase Colombia’s friendship with people around the world — like the one Colombia enjoys with Charlestonians and the people of the Palmetto State.
From trade to security, South Carolina and Colombia both benefit from a strong relationship.
In fact, the ARC Gloria visit is just one of 73 engagements South Carolina and Colombia have shared in the past four years alone.
On the trade front, the flow of goods is significant and a two-way street.
In 2015, South Carolina exported $424 million to Colombia, which ranged from transportation equipment to food products.
During 2015, Colombia was the 14th main destination of South Carolina’s exports around the world and the third destination among Latin American countries. South Carolina, meanwhile, imported $140 million worth of goods from Colombia, items that included agricultural products and apparel.
The trade relationship between the state and my country has only gotten stronger over the years. Between 2010 and 2012, exports from South Carolina to Colombia increased by 23 percent. From 2012 to 2015, since the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement came into force, exports increased by 137 percent.
Colombian companies are proud to be a part of the South Carolinian community as well. Argos, the second largest cement producer in the United States, is one such Colombian company that has operations here in South Carolina. Argos proudly employs South Carolinians and supports the local community.
Beyond an important commercial relationship, South Carolina and Colombia also share security expertise through the State Partnership Program. The State Partnership Program was launched in 2012 to coordinate events where members of the South Carolina National Guard and Colombian military can meet to discuss topics of mutual interest that range from military equipment maintenance and key leadership programs to humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. At least two events are planned each year, one in South Carolina and one in Colombia.
I have seen the benefits of the State Partnership Program first hand.
South Carolina National Guard Bilateral Affairs Officer Capt. Javier Yudice and his family moved to Bogota, Colombia, for two years to support the Program as the Bilateral Exchange Officer.
I had the distinct honor of being escorted by Capt. Yudice when he was in Miami to meet with Gen. John F. Kelly, former commander of United States Southern Command.
Capt. Yudice is just one of a long and distinguished list of military personnel from South Carolina and Colombia who have participated in the program.
Unlike other partnerships, the South Carolina National Guard and Colombia have a peer-to-peer relationship so that both partners benefit from the experience of the other.
The State Partnership Program can expand from military to military to civilian to civilian — yet another example of how our partnership with South Carolina has only gotten and will get stronger.
On the national level, the South Carolina congressional delegation has been central to the strong relationship between Colombia and South Carolina.
U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham and U.S. Reps. Mark Sanford, Jim Clyburn and Jeff Duncan, in particular, have supported Colombia in its efforts to transform and secure lasting peace.
We welcome Charlestonians, all South Carolinians and visitors to come aboard and explore the ARC Gloria — a symbol of friendship and good will between Colombia and the Holy City.
Juan Carlos Pinzón is Colombia’s ambassador to the United States.