Colombia's vice president Marta Lucía Ramírez calls for joint vaccine production with India

New DelhiWritten By: Sidhant SibalUpdated: Oct 03, 2021, 10:17 AM IST

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Colombia's Marta Lucía Vice President Ramirez is leading a 48-member health and science and technology delegation to India.

The visiting vice president and the foreign minister of Colombia Marta Lucía Ramírez has said that she sees Indo-Pacific as a region that has "a lot of opportunities for growth and wealth creation" even as she highlighted connect with the Pacific alliance - a block of Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Peru. Ramírez met Vice President Venkaiah Naidu and external affairs minister Dr S Jaishankar. 

Speaking to our Principal Diplomatic & Defence Correspondent Sidhant Sibal, the Colombian vice president called for collaboration on vaccines saying, "we would like to produce vaccines together with India in order to export to different countries" and backed more partnership in aerospace and biotech. 

Being the first women vice president of her country, she had a message of women empowerment. She highlighted the need for more women in job creation and entrepreneurship saying, "when women have economic autonomy, there is less violence against women and children." On a lighter note, she talked about her love for Indian sarees and bought three during her visit. 

Vice President Ramirez is leading a 48-member health and science and technology delegation to India. Both Colombia and India have also signed Letters of Intent for cooperation in the fields of biotechnology and medical research. These were signed by the Department of Biotechnology and the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) with their Colombian counterparts.


WION: How will you characterise the relationship between India and Colombia?

Marta Lucía Ramírez:  First of all, we would like very much to strengthen the relationship between Colombia and India because we really believe that the Indo-Pacific is so important for Colombia but we also believe that Latin America is so important for India.

In order to increase presence in our region, we would like to have Indian companies invest in Colombia and produce part of their goods in Colombia to export to the US, Canada or Latin America.

Colombia has a free trade agreement, so through Colombia they can export without tariffs to all the region. The focus has been on vaccines, we would also like very much to produce vaccines together with India in order to export to different countries. Colombia has been buying Indian vaccines for many years including hepatitis etc, so now we are now focusing on COVID-19.

Maybe in the future we would like to do research together with Indian pharma companies. Public policy for biotechnology in India is very advanced. In Colombia, we would like to strengthen relations in aerospace and biotech.

WION: How was your meeting with EAM Dr Jaishankar. You met in New York as well. We also saw pictures of electric vehicles, which was shown to you by him...

Marta Lucía Ramírez: We talked about multilateral issues including UN reforms and PM Modi's intervention in the General Assembly. We also discussed trade, economy and investment.

I told India's external affairs minister that we in Colombia passed a law in order to have a transition to electric cars. He told me I have a new car for the first day, and this is my Tata car and we saw his car. I told him I would very much like to have the Tata automotive industry in Colombia producing for the public transportation system. Due to the transition, it would be fine to have an Indian electric car. We have a motorcycle industry and they are doing very good business. They only focus on Colombia. Now we want to promote them in all regions including entire Latin America.

WION: You mentioned Indo-Pacific, what is your view about the vision?

Marta Lucía Ramírez: We think it has a lot of opportunities for growth and wealth creation. We are also working in a Pacific alliance, between Colombia, Mexico, Peru and Chile.

We feel we have to create bridges between the Pacific alliance and Indo-Pacific and we would like India as a very important region for a better integration process, better trade and investment between the two regions. We have some tensions, some trouble but we need to work and solve every tension through democracy, through values and respect and this is something we recognise very much in India.

WION: How has the space collaboration been going? We saw MoU being signed.

Marta Lucía Ramírez: First of all we would like to identify specific activities and sectors which we can launch together. For example, the first Colombian nanosatellite the only one until now was with India's support. We would like a better presence in space for peaceful purposes, for example in climate change, information for mining and avoiding natural disasters including in defence.

We would like very much the list of activities which can be developed with the private industry. Our country would like to produce parts for the air industry in Colombia and there is production in India. We would like to identify with the private sector in order to develop these special industries also in Colombia.

WION: How has been cooperation in the health sector, in the vaccine sector going?

Marta Lucía Ramírez: We know about research and development in India. We came with our minister of health as it was important and he can see for himself all the production of vaccines in India. Hopefully, we can see Indian vaccines get FDA approval in order to produce more vaccines.

We have signed a letter of intent with Indian institutions and the Colombian government. We also have letters of intent between Colombian private companies and Indian private companies.  For example, there is one with Serum Institute and some Colombian labs in order to negotiate MoU and they will share research, production and development hopefully together soon in Colombia.

WION: We saw high-level engagements between the two countries. Minister Lekhi visited Colombia and you are here now. Can we expect more visits?

Marta Lucía Ramírez: Hopefully! When minister Lekhi came to Colombia, I told her maybe I'm going to go to India. In a short time, we will have a delegation of Colombian businessmen with us and it happened in less than two months. Hopefully, we can have an Indian president, he was supposed to visit but due to the Covid crisis, it was not possible. Also, President Iván Duque Márquez can come to India. We have to work on both the visits. We would like PM Modi, minister Jaishankar to visit. We have to create this mutual knowledge, not only with public officers but with the private sector and academics. So we are trying to have these visits in the short term.

WION: Participation in the Republic Day, any visit around that time?

Marta Lucía Ramírez: Not yet, hopefully, we can have some.

WION: Your love for bought some today...

Marta Lucía Ramírez: First of all, the first time I came to India was 20 years ago and at that time I was foreign trade minister and the then president Andres Pastrana Arango was the first Colombian president to visit India. At that time I was told we need to go with a delegation of businessmen. We came with a delegation of the software sector and software engineering. They started the BPO industry precisely because of the visit to India. So that is why I am convinced that we are going to have an important vaccine industry in Colombia because of the visit. I bought beautiful sarees because I like the colour. The last time I bought three sarees. I still have it and that is why I bought it today.

WION: You are the first women vice president of Colombia. What is your message to many women who are watching you as a source of inspiration...

Marta Lucía Ramírez:  We want to recover the world economy, after Covid. We need all the women in the economy, we need women's participation in job creation and as entrepreneurs.

Women have the capacity, talent and they are so smart. Women have very clear focus and results and this is what companies need. Companies managed by women usually have levels of profitability. We want to have more women in the world economy.

We believe that when women have economic autonomy, there is less violence against women and children. We believe if we can have some kind of leadership, we are obliged to open leadership for other women.

When people say, ok you are the first woman, I say this is my responsibility to make other women use my shoulder to see and know if they are capable of doing the same or more than me. Women must have self-confidence and we have to promote young women, children in order to be part of the new world, a new world with more peace, more development opportunities for everybody. Women can create bridges, wealth and change the world.