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Colombia and the OECD

By: Mateo Varela Martínez

It is well known that Colombia was formally invited to be part of the Organization for Economic Cooperation Development (OECD) early this year and that this was one of the most important topics of the last administration agenda. However, it is worth asking about the scope of this participation and the whole process we had to go through in order to receive the OECD Membership. 

For those who are not so well versed in what the OECD means in the international community, it is important to point out that the Organization for the Economic Cooperation Development was founded in 1961 and aimed to promote policies that improved the economic and social well-being of all the people around the world. Specifically, the OECD offered a forum where governments could work together to share experiences and find solutions to common problems. The goal was to work and understand what was driving economic, social and environmental change. 

With that information, the OECD was able to make trend forecasts and set international standards within a wide range of public policy issues. Also, this helped the OECD to promote prosperity and fight poverty through economic growth, financial stability, trade and investment, technology, innovation, business stimulus and cooperation for development. 

Colombia’s first approach to the OECD was on January 2011, when former president, Juan Manuel Santos, announced the interest of country of making part of this organization. 

After that, on May, 2013, the OECD Council invited Colombia to initiate the Formal Accession Process and, later that same year, the official Roadmap for the Colombian Accession Process was submitted.

For 5 years, Colombia worked hard to adapt its national policies to the international standards established in the OECD Working Groups, receiving the approval of 23 OECD Committees that were assessing all critical changes that were required to formally access the Organization.

Finally, on May 25, 2018, the process concluded with the formal invitation of the OECD Council that allowed Colombia to have a full membership.

Those 5 years of intensive work also implied the presence of regulatory agencies, such as the Superintendence of Industry and Commerce (SIC), which was in charge of participating in the “OECD Competition Committee” and in the “OECD Consumer Policy Committee”.

Both of them gave the go-ahead to the SIC (and to Colombia) in 2015, being two of the firsts committees to approve Colombia's accession to the Organization. Thus, praising the work that the SIC did in terms of compliance and legislative adaptation.

This does not mean that the process has being completed, since Full OECD Membership requires constant adaptation and there’s a lot of pending issues, including some related to consumer and competition protection.

Specifically, the Competition Committee recommended that Colombia should: (i) Enact a new legislation assuring the SIC a sufficient degree of institutional independence from political control by the executive branch; (ii) Amend several aspects of the merger law; (iii) Expand the SIC’s competition advocacy authority to cover proposed subsidies and regulatory proposals of regional and local governments; (iv) Implement the “Council’s 2012 Big Rigging Recommendation”; (v) Increase the attractiveness of the leniency program; (vi) Modify the authority of other agency’s in competition related issues, such as “Aerocivil” and “Superintendence of Finance”; among others.

Regarding Consumer Protection, the OECD Consumer Policy Committee recommended that Colombia should: (i) Address potential issues resulting from overlapping responsibilities among different agencies; (ii) Standardize the assessment of the nature and magnitude of consumer detriment to stablish coherent penalization criteria; (iii) Provide more clarity regarding “chargeback rules” and the “right of withdrawal”; (iv) Continue strengthening co-operation with foreign enforcement agencies; (v) Implement ADR mechanisms; (vi) Consider widening the scope of Colombia’s consumer protection regime and; (vii) Establish a data collection system on product safety-related injuries.

These recommendations are an important future effort for the SIC, especially for the legislative and governmental implications. However, the commitment of the SIC for the promotion and protection of competition and consumers imply that this authority will continue to grow and strengthen the regulatory framework and the best practices on both fields, making the necessary adjustments and assessing the best possible actions.