International trade and customs in Colombia
Araújo Ibarra Consultores Internacionales
Araújo Ibarra Consultores Internacionales is an uncontested reference in the sector. With offices in Bogotá, Medellín, Cali and Barranquilla the 18-strong group has depth across the full range of trade matters and is particularly known for the expertise of its managing partner, Martín Gustavo Ibarra, in pioneering the establishment of free trade zones nationally and internationally. Also recommended for its 'excellent customer service' and availability, the department acts for clients in the adoption of anti-dumping, countervailing duties and safeguards, and recent mandates included the successful application for an additional 8% tariff on certain steel imports. Other key practice figures include deeply experienced Ricardo López, who has considerable expertise in gaining market access in Colombia through regional and business logistics; and associate Olga Lucía Salamanca - who is an economist, not a lawyer - directs the trade remedies and international trade unit. The practice was boosted with the arrival of associate Lina Ocampo, who arrived from PricewaterhouseCoopers in June 2019 as director of international trade, focusing on the development and implementation of trade structures and comprehensive advisory on free and special economic zones, among other matters.
‘The firm’s team is well prepared, with extensive knowledge of international trade, customs and excellent customer service‘.
‘Preparation, extensive knowledge, dedication, availability, friendliness‘.
Zona Franca del Pacífico (Usuario operador de Zona Franca
Palermo Sociedad Portuaria
Acerias Paz del Río, Ternium Colombia, Gerdau Diaco, Sidenal and Sidoc
ANDI – Cámara de Usuarios de Zonas Francas
Observatorio de Comercio Electrónico (representado por la Cámara Colombiana de Comercio Electrónico)
Zona Franca Industrial del Casanare
Zona Franca Santander
- Advised the Operator User of the Pacific Free Zone on a 30-year extension of its term before the Ministry of Commerce, involving preparation of the feasibility studies, as well as advisory on the structuring of its future investment plans.
- Drafted a fiscal impact study, for the Iquique Free Trade Zone (ZOFRI) in Chile, currently the largest free trade zone in the country, analysing the social, economic and development impact that the free zone has had on both the city of Iquique and more broadly, the regions of Tarapacá, Arica and Parinacota.
- Represented the Colombian steel industry companies Acerias Paz Del Rio, Ternium Colombia, Gerdau Diaco, Sidenal and Sidoc before the state seeking safeguard measures for imports of corrugated iron and steel bars for concrete reinforcement, resulting in the application of an additional 8%, two-year tariff on such imports from Turkey, China, Ukraine and Russia, among others.
- Advised the Observatory of Electronic Commerce (an entity of the Colombian Chamber of Electronic Commerce and the Ministry of Information and Communication Technologies) on analysing and developing a roadmap for the promotion and development of electronic commerce in the country.
- The firm advised Palermo Port on obtaining its declaration as a permanent port services special free zone.
International trade and competition boutique Ibarra Abogados is widely recommended for the management of bilateral and multilateral agreements, and customs matters, and stands out as a main player in trade remedy investigations. It is currently involved in the high-profile welded steel-pipe investigation and is also handling a number of anti-circumvention applications. A well-known sector specialist with an impressive track record who is particularly recommended for his personalised attention, founding and managing partner Gabriel Ibarra heads the department. Having worked for the Energy and Fuel Gas Office of the Public Services regulator, Alejandro Ibarra returned to the firm in 2018; he focuses on customs, competition and administrative law, as well as foreign trade and energy and gas issues. Ana Lucía Parra, who also became a partner in 2018, handles antitrust, unfair competition and consumer protection matters. The group has a second line of notable associates of whom senior Adriana Cortés and junior Natalia Torres are noted.
‘I’d highlight the partners’ dedication to attending a very specialised area of practice, bringing a personalised service, guaranteeing opinions, giving criteria and appropriate recommendations on the matters consulted. The trajectory of the partners and their experience are the strengths to highlight of the team and clearly make it far superior to other firms’.
‘Gabriel Ibarra is recommended for his knowledge of national and international law and the commitment to clients. He is an exceptional advisor for the training alternatives and audits our company is carrying. It differs from other firms in its unique speciality and excellent advice. With their help we have actively identified opportunities and have implemented many projects that have allowed us savings for the company and the parent company’.
‘Their plus is their experience and the partner’s guaranteed personalised attention and dedication. In this sense, we appreciate the attention and dedication of Gabriel Ibarra, Alejandro Ibarra and Natalia Torres, who have attended to our queries and whose professionalism, commitment and dedication in dealing with our affairs are highlighted’.
‘We highlight firstly, the level of commitment to fully meet the customer’s needs; and secondly, the internal coordination between the team’s lawyers’.
‘Gabriel Ibarra has unmatched experience in trade, customs and competition cases. Natalia Torres, a junior lawyer, is exceptional: she has a great capacity for work, great knowledge despite her little experience, with very high productivity and a great ability to analyse and prepare reports. Lawyer Adriana Cortes is very competent in customs matters, has great knowledge and is very successful in her concepts’.
Fedemetal – Asociación Nacional de Empresarios de Colombia (ANDI)
Asociación de Cultivadores de Caña de Azúcar de Colombia (ASOCAÑA)
Alimentos Polar Colombia
- Representation of Fedemetal – Asociación Nacional de Empresarios de Colombia (ANDI), the association of the domestic welded-steel-pipe industry, in an antidumping investigation into the importation of Chinese welded steel pipes.
- Presented – in 2018 – the first countervailing duty petition in the history of Colombia on behalf of the Sugarcane Producers Association of Colombia (ASOCAÑA), and the Biofuels National Association of Colombia (FEDEBIOCOMBUSTIBLES); the action was taken in order to offset subsidised imports of bioethanol originating in the United States.
- Acting on behalf of Pfizer in a certificate-of-origin controversy within the appeal regarding a decision adopted by the administrative courts on the validity of certificates submitted by Pfizer in support of the importation of certain medicines (so as to gain access to the preferential treatment accruing from the US-Colombia FTA).
- Representation of GP Cars in the appeal presented on September 2018 regarding the decision of the administrative courts in a dispute against Customs Authority; the dispute arose from allegations of under-invoicing of imported Ferraris, which caused damages to GP Cars’ reputation.
- Providing permanent counsel to Colgate-Palmolive in matters of customs law and foreign trade.
Brigard Urrutia's customs and international trade practice advises national and international public and private entities on the planning of their cross-border operations, the formulation of operational and strategic alternatives for customs optimisation based on national regulations, and the application and implementation of different international treaties ratified by Colombia. Practice head Jose Francisco Mafla is very experienced in advising on all types of regulatory and transactional matters related to customs and foreign trade operations, including customs requirements, trade remedies, WTO regulations, free trade agreements and customs administrative and judicial disputes. Key associate support comes from senior Camilo Castrillón and associate Gerardo Chadid, who are both noted.
‘Brigard Urrutia’s team of lawyers is highly qualified, providing agile and effective services to the client’.
‘They quickly understand the requests and opportunities that the economic environment can open to their client’s business’.
‘Gerardo Chadid, José Francisco Mafla and Camilo Castrillón demonstrate a lot of preparation and objectivity in the delivery of the agreed assignments’.
‘José Francisco Mafla is recommended for his excellent knowledge of customs issues both at national and international level. Also, his knowledge of the business and interest in understanding the client’s problems. Additionally, the speed in responding’.
‘José Francisco Mafla is a great business partner, we see him not only as a lawyer, but as a reference who always seeks positive customer results first’.
- Advised Columbia Productiva on the identification of the most appropriate legal vehicle for the implementation of associations for foreign trade, as well as on the identification of opportunities for tax savings in the development of said legal vehicle.
- General legal advisory to Dufry America in order to operate in Colombian territory; including consultancy on issues concerning customs and international law.
- Advised Panalpina on the acquisition of Cargomaster; the advisory involved analysis of the correct execution of Cargomaster’s operations in order to identify the possible contingencies that could represent sanctions for the acquirer.
Forero Medina & Abogados Asociados
Boutique firm Forero Medina & Abogados Asociados is directed by leading sector specialist Andrés Forero. Celebrating a decade in the market, it has developed an extensive regional reach, the practice covering international trade and taxation, administrative litigation, foreign exchange, leasing and free trade zones, among other areas of IT&C practice. Senior associate Julián Valencia, who heads up the regulatory affairs and health regulation practice, is also noted.
Posse Herrera Ruiz's team receives praise for being 'versatile, agile and always available', as well as for its expertise. The nine-strong tax, customs and international trade practice is led by Juan David Barbosa, who is experienced in customs and international trade proceedings and litigation, has particular expertise in the development of tax-efficient import-export strategies. 'An expert in tax and customs matters', senior partner Juan Guillermo Ruiz, 'who has great prestige inside and outside Colombia', is also a key member of the team. The practice offers comprehensive advice to a diverse client base of multinational corporations with regional operations from an array of industries, including retail, petroleum, steel exportation, public transport, energy and agribusiness.
‘Posse Herrera Ruiz’s foreign trade lawyers are versatile, agile and always available. They are experts in their areas of work and are always at their forefront’.
‘Juan Guillermo Ruiz has great prestige inside and outside Colombia. He is an expert in tax and customs matters. Juan David Barbosa handles in detail foreign trade and customs issues in Colombia. The team is ready to advise clients, which on many occasions allows us to anticipate the impact from legislative changes to the business’.
Mydibel / Calypso del Caribe
International Finance Corporation (IFC)
- Assisted Kimberly Clark with obtaining the correct tariff classification for both imports and exports of gloves to Latin America.
- Ongoing legal advice to Mydibel and Calyspo del Caribe in an anti-dumping case concerning fried potatoes, which is currently being reviewed by the international court of the WTO; additionally, at the local level, actions were taken throughout the investigation and are now before the Council of State.
- Advised Hino Motors on designing and implementing a strategy for exporting its vehicles under the Mercosur free trade agreement; as well as on international commerce staff-training matters.
Best known for its expertise in tax, the international trade practice at Goh (formerly known as Godoy Hoyos Abogados), specialises in the customs and foreign exchange regime matters, and - particularly -the use of free trade zones relevant to the oil and gas industry. The department supports clients seeking qualification and/or authorisations, as well as providing advice on free trade agreements with the aim of optimising international business. Practice head Juan Pablo Godoy, who also co-directs the tax practice and has particular expertise advising energy and oil and gas companies; and associate practice director Andrea Caicedo, who joined from Philippi Prietocarrizosa Ferrero DU & Uría in June 2019, are the key names.
Signet Armolite Colombia
Gran Colombia Gold
Occidental de Colombia
Vitol Colombia CI
Superior Energy Service Colombia
- Advised Strabag on the importation of machinery and equipment for road construction.
- Advised Signet Armolite Colombia on the process of managing its stocks after requesting disqualification as a free zone user.
Gómez-Pinzón Abogados (GPA) receives praise for its highly specialised' knowledge in customs, tariff and free trade areas, providing permanent advisory services on free trade zone matters, including requests for declarations and extensions, to the likes of Cementos Argos. The team is also experienced in customs and foreign exchange disputes and litigation, and in a recent mandate advised Cobres de Colombia before both the customs authorities and the courts in a special case related to a customs dispute. Director Nicolás Potdevin Stein, who is noted for his knowledge and anticipation of clients' needs, heads the three-strong area. However, key associate María Paula Mazuera moved in-house at Cargill in June 2020.
‘High knowledge of customs management‘.
‘Nicolás Potdevin Stein, who has a lot of knowledge on customs matters, which is not so common, takes the necessary steps in time to speed up the processes’.
‘Recommended for their experience in handling the issues, as they anticipate the needs that may arise. They are highly specialised in customs, tariff and free trade areas’.
Polipropileno del Caribe
Kuehne & Nagel
Procter & Gamble
- Permanent advice to Cementos Argos on foreign trade operations, free trade zone compliance, filings and proceedings before Colombian authorities and the handling of information requirements, among other day-to-day queries.
- Representing Laboratorios OSA in a procedure concerning customs law; specifically customs heading classification, which is key to maintain its operations and guarantee compliance with customs regulations in healthcare, pharmaceutical and other domestic products.
- Permanent advice to Procter and Gamble on matters related to customs and international trade, including customs planning and the modification of import returns, and the origin-rules of free trade agreements, among other issues.
Led by two expert partners, Philippi Prietocarrizosa Ferrero DU & Uría's tax and international trade practice is experienced in structuring domestic and international operations and transactions, and offering consultation on tax planning and customs matters; it also has free trade zone expertise. The five-strong team is co-directed by senior partner Martín Acero (a leader in both corporate and tax matters), and Carolina Rozo, and advises primarily on cross-border structures for the optimisation of foreign trade operations.
Sociedad Aeroportuaria de la Costa (SACSA)
Sánchez Devanny Eseverry
Sociedad Portuaria Regional de Cartagena
- Advised Transportes Vigía on structuring the development and operation of a centre dedicated to the preparation, cleaning, maintenance and othe activities performed on vehicles imported to be sold both in Colombia and regionally.
- Advised Sociedad Aeroportuaria de la Costa regarding the recent customs tax reform, and devised a compliance guide containing all customs obligations which airports are required to meet.