Colombian president in France to promote LatAm region

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Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos arrived in France ahead of an official visit Monday saying he was on a mission to promote what he described as the neglected region of Latin America.

"Latin America has a special importance at this stage of history," said a statement from Santos as he flew into Paris.

The world was beginning to see it with fresh eyes, he added, referring to the forecast four-percent growth in the region in 2011, driven mainly by raw materials.

Santos officially begins what will be a three-day visit to France on Monday.

"I came to France because President (Nicolas) Sarkozy is the first to have invited me and also because President Sarkozy and France play a very important role globally," he said, referring to France's current presidency of both the G20 and G8 economic blocs.

It was there, he said," that the truly important decisions regarding world affairs are taken."

Santos said he would discuss with Sarkozy the G20's monetary policy and the need for measures to shore up the weak dollar, which has had a knock-on effect on Latin American currencies, including the Colombian peso.

"We are also going to discuss transport, education, technology, enviroment and drug trafficking," at their meeting Wednesday he added.

With a doctorate in economics, Santos will also be the main speaker on a panel focusing on Latin America and the Caribbean at the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

And on Thursday, he is expected in Davos, Switzerland, to attend the World Economic Forum.

There he will meet hold meetings with South African President Jacob Zuma and Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, among other leaders, government officials in Colombia said.

Santos is seeking to increase ties with Europe, Asia and the rest of Latin America so it does not have to be so reliant on the United States.

Colombia, forecast to post economic growth of between 4.5 and five percent in 2011, is the second most important market in South America for the European Union after Brazil.

Colombia also occupies one of the rotating seats on the United Nations Security Council.

The president's delegation includes Foreign Affairs Minister Maria Angela Holguin, Finance Minister Juan Carlos Echeverry, and Commerce, Industry and Trade Minister Sergio Diaz-Granados.

© 2011 AFP

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