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| 11/17/2009 12:00:00 AM

Colombia holds major export event in Miami

Nov 17--Blame it on Hugo Chavez: Colombia is rushing to boost sales to North America, now that political disputes with Venezuela have slashed hefty trade with its South American neighbor.

The largest Colombian export mission ever to the United States is in Miami this week for two-days of match-making sessions with pre-selected importers. High on the agenda for sale: women's lingerie and other clothing, processed foods, books and other manufactured goods, Colombian officials said.

Venezuela's leftist president, Hugo Chavez, has been lashing out for months against Colombia's conservative leader, Alvaro Uribe, even ordering Venezuelan soldiers to prepare for war. Chavez rejects Uribe's decision to allow U.S. military aircraft and warships greater access to Colombian bases.

The political dispute has pushed Colombian sales to Venezuela down 56 percent in October from the same month last year, Colombia's Trade, Industry and Commerce Minister Luis Guillermo Plata told a news conference in Miami on Monday morning.

To help offset that drop, Colombia is accelerating its drive to diversify sales abroad. More than 360 Colombian exporters are visiting Miami this week for pre-arranged meetings with more than 240 importers from the United States, Canada, Mexico and Caribbean islands, said Maria Elvira Pombo, president of Colombia's export promotion agency Proexport.
 
Read more here.
 
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