International trade and customs in Colombia
Araújo Ibarra Consultores Internacionales
Specialist firm Araújo Ibarra Consultores Internacionales is an undisputed leader in the sector. At the helm of the now 80-strong firm, which has offices in Bogotá, Medellín, Cali and Barranquilla, managing partner Martín Gustavo Ibarra is a figure of international renown in the sector and has been central in the development of the free trade zones regime both nationally and internationally. Ricardo López, who is responsible for customs, taxes and logistics at the firm, and associate Olga Lucía Salamanca are also key members of the practice. Recent mandates include assisting Ternium del Atlántico with obtaining approval for a new special permanent free trade zone; the team undertook the preparation of the application and associated supporting studies and acted as the client's representative before governmental entities. The practice also advised Brazil’s Red Cárnica on the use of public policy instruments aimed at promoting exports of bovine meat. Other highlights saw the team act for Gerdau Diaco and Ternium Siderurgica de Caldas on the successful adoption of anti-dumping rights on Chinese imports of steel profiles. Other clients include Socoda, Reficar, Zona Franca Scotiabank and IOS Partners.
Highly regarded boutique Ibarra Abogados specialises in international trade and customs and competition, and is a particularly visible player in current trade remedy investigations. The five-strong practice ‘studies each case thoroughly, anticipating allegations and arguments made by their counterparts’. Managing partner Gabriel Ibarra leads the team, which is currently representing Fedemetal – Asociación Nacional de Empresarios de Colombia (ANDI) in the ongoing anti-dumping investigation into imports of Chinese welded steel pipes. The practice also acted on behalf of Pfizer in an appeal against a decision adopted by the administrative courts regarding the validity of some certificates of origin. In other 2018 mandates the team represented Colgate Palmolive in five lawsuits against a series of Colombian Customs Authority resolutions. Associates Natalia Torres and María Angélica Suárez are noted. However, senior associate Daniel Rangel left to pursue masters’ studies. Other clients include Empresa Colombiana de Cables, Corporación de Acero, Alimentos Polar and Manufacturas Metalúrgicas Rheem Chilena.
‘Much in demand’, Brigard Urrutia’s five-strong practice is led by José Francisco Mafla and advises companies on matters concerning customs law, special importation schemes, the application of trade and investment treaties (BITs), customs valuation, and rules of origin and tariff classification, among other areas. The team is currently advising Programa de Transformación Productiva (PTP) on the identification of the most appropriate legal vehicle for the implementation of the so-called “Associations for foreign trade”, identifying opportunities for tax savings in the development the vehicle and other optimisations. The programme is part of the national public policy to support small and medium-sized enterprises. Other matters included providing permanent legal advice to Dufry Group. Senior associate Camilo Castrillón and associate Gerardo Chadid are also names to note.
Forero Medina & Abogados Asociados
Boutique firm Forero Medina & Abogados Asociados is directed by leading sector-specialist Andrés Forero. With an extensive regional reach, the practice covers international trade and taxation, administrative litigation, foreign exchange, leasing and free trade zones, among other areas of IT&C practice.
Boutique Osman & Rodriguez Abogados climbs in the rankings on the back of excellent feedback from market sources, which highlight the depth of its specialisation in ‘custom and exchange matters’, ‘timely responses’ and ‘positive disposition’. Recommended founding partner Carlos Andrés Rodríguez heads the practice, which recently represented a pharmaceutical company in a customs litigation case against the National Tax and Customs Office regarding tariff, import duties and VAT matters related to its past importation of devices used in blood and cancer diagnosis. Also in the pharma sector, the team has been representing a client before the customs authority and the operator-user of a free trade zone, regarding the resignation of the free trade zone agreement qualification. Regular clients include Bravo Petroleum Logistics, Promotora Minera Global and Gunvor.
Posse Herrera Ruiz not only possesses ‘excellent knowledge’, but also has a ‘very good rapport with government and associations’, which makes its work ‘more efficient’. Reputed practitioner Juan David Barbosa, ‘who is personally involved with matters’, leads an eight-strong practice which is currently advising automotive company Greenland in a five-year investigation initiated by local companies to ascertain whether the duties currently charged are appropriate. The team also assisted Repsol with a successful request for the reduction of a free trade zone applicable to some of its oil-and-gas exploration areas in the Caribbean. Other clients include Hasbro, Colombina, Zona Franca de Barranquilla and Diageo. Juan Guillermo Ruiz is also a key contact.
Gómez-Pinzón Abogados (GPA) is recommended for its ‘expertise in free trade zone matters’ as well as the 'availability and support’ the practice brings. Noted senior associate Nicolás Potdevin Stein heads the practice, which provides permanent advice to Cementos Argos - among other clients - on foreign trade operations, free trade zone compliance, filings and proceedings before Colombian authorities. Similarly, the firm advises Procter & Gamble on matters related to customs and international trade, including customs planning, the modification of import returns and the rules of origin regulations of free trade agreements. Alpina, Reficar, Maaji and Metrex are also clients.
Garrigues’ four-strong practice, led by César Cermeño, focuses on customs controversies and free trade zone qualifications, as well as providing support in due diligences for high-profile transactions. The team continues to advise Patria Investments on the incorporation of Odata, one of its portfolio companies, and in the process of registering Odata as a free trade zone user. The team also assisted Ilunion with gaining qualification as a free trade zone user. Associate María Paz Arroyave is also noted.
Godoy & Hoyos Abogados SAS’ practice specialises in the customs and foreign exchange regime and the use of free trade zones relevant to the oil-and-gas industry. Led by Juan Pablo Godoy, the four-strong practice was strengthened with the arrival of associate director Andrea Caicedo, formerly a senior associate at Philippi Prietocarrizosa Ferrero DU & Uría. Recent mandates saw the team assist Superior Energy Services with analysis of the content and modification of a customs mandate required to regulate the operations that will handled by the company’s customs broker. Other highlights included providing legal services to Contract Workplaces on its day-to-day businesses, particularly in relation to compliance with legal foreign exchange obligations before Colombia’s Central Bank and tax authority DIAN. Clients include Huber, Occidental Chemical Corporation, Autopista al Mar 1 and Strabag.
Strongly recommended by clients, Lloreda Camacho & Co.’s four-strong international trade and customs team makes an entry in the rankings. Ignacio Santamaría leads a group that is ‘extremely accessible’, gives ‘prompt responses’ and is ‘up to date with regulatory changes’, thereby managing ‘to quickly assess and mitigate contingencies effectively’. The practice successfully advised Baxalta on the design of a legal strategy to prove the legality of the introduction of a cargo of critical medicines required for the treatment of complex diseases to the customs authorities. It also successfully acted for Greif Colombia, proving to the Minister of Industry and Commerce the existence of dumping practices, which led to the imposition of anti-dumping duties on metal drums (of a capacity equal to 208 litres) imported from Chile. Senior associate Diana Ramírez is noted. Alfa Laval, Roche Pharmaceutical, Goodyear and Boehringer Ingelheim are also clients.
Philippi Prietocarrizosa Ferrero DU & Uría is experienced in structuring domestic and international operations and transactions, and offering consultation on tax planning and customs matters, and also has free trade zone expertise. Martin Acero and Carolina Rozo head the four-strong team, which advised the consortium formed by five liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) commercialisation companies in Colombia (Chilco Distribuidora de Gas y Energía; Inversiones GLP; Montagas; Compañía de Almacenamiento de Gas and Grupo INSA) on issues related to importation of the fuel. Other mandates included assisting Drypers Andina with the design of a legal structure to render different services between the companies of the group. Abbott Laboratories, Productora de Confección, Zona Franca Las Américas and Vitol are also clients.