When I was appointed Agriculture Commissioner, I made it my priority to ambitiously pursue new global markets for our high-quality EU food and drink products. Since then, significant progress has been made. Last week, the first calls for the new EU promotion campaign were published, with some €111 million available under the 2016 budget, including €30 million for the milk and pigmeat sectors.
This week, I'm starting the first in a series of world-wide trade missions by visiting Colombia and Mexico. This trip is part of my 2016 "Diplomatic Offensive" to boost exports and promote top-quality European produce across the globe. After Colombia and Mexico, China and Japan will follow in April, and Indonesia and Vietnam in the autumn.
I am proud to be the first member of the Juncker Commission to visit Colombia, one of our key trading partners in Latin America. I met the Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and Agriculture Minister Aurelio Iragorri to discuss how we can deepen and widen our trade relations. My message to these key players is simple: by working together, we can increase trade, create new jobs and growth in our respective agri-food sectors.
At present, conditions are ripe for progress. We have a Trade Agreement in place since 2013 that is delivering results. We are also entering a historic period of peace in Colombia: the imminent end of the armed conflict is set to unleash the country's economic potential.
But we will also take real steps toward closer economic and political co-operation. First, we will start negotiations for an agreement on the trade of organic products. The development of organic farming has great potential in this country, as former combatants return to agriculture in a country famed for its amazing biodiversity.
Second, I want to explore cooperation in the area of rural development. The EU has significant experience in this field. During tomorrow's visit to Cali, I will inspect a number of local projects co-financed by the EU. From an economic point of view, our mission is to provide rewarding and sustainable livelihoods for people living in rural areas.
Our EU origin products or “Geographical Indications” are one of our greatest export strengths. And in Colombia they are on the same page, since "Café de Colombia" is a prestigious world-known GI that was the first non-European GI to receive this key EU status.
Our Trade Agreement offers the possibility of protecting new 9 Colombian GIs. This will mean better income for farmers, and more sustainable jobs for rural communities. Improved trade can have a transformative economic and political impact, and I’m very glad to play my part.