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Historically an agrarian economy, Colombia urbanised rapidly in the 20th century, by the end of which just 22.7% of the workforce were employed in agriculture, generating just 11.5% of GDP; 18.7% of the workforce were employed in industry and 58.5% in services, responsible for 36% and 52.5% of GDP respectively.

Colombia's market economy grew steadily in the latter part of the 20th century, with gross domestic product (GDP) increasing at an average rate of over 4% per year between 1970 and 1998. The country suffered a recession in 1999 (the first full year of negative growth since the Great Depression), and the recovery from that recession was long and painful. However, in recent years growth has been impressive, reaching 6.9% in 2007, one of the highest rates of growth in Latin America. According to International Monetary Fund estimates, in 2012 Colombia's GDP (PPP) was US$500 billion (28th in the world and third in South America).

Total government expenditures account for 28.3 percent of the domestic economy. Public debt equals 32 percent of gross domestic product. A strong fiscal climate was reaffirmed by a boost in bond ratings. Annual inflation closed 2014 at 3.66% YoY (vs. 1.94% YoY in 2013). The average national unemployment rate in 2014 was 9.1%, although the informality is the biggest problem facing the labour market (the income of formal workers climbed 24.8% in 5 years while labor incomes of informal workers rose only 9%).Colombia has Free trade Zone (FTZ), such as Zona Franca del Pacifico, located in the Valle del Cauca, one of the most striking areas for foreign investment.

Colombia is rich in natural resources, and its main exports include mineral fuels, oils, distillation products, precious stones, forest products, pulp and paper, coffee, meat, cereals and vegetable oils, cotton, oilseed, sugars and sugar confectionery, fruit and other agricultural products, food processing, processed fish products, beverages, machinery, electronics, military products, aircraft, ships, motor vehicles, metal products, ferro-alloys, home and office material, chemicals and health related products, petrochemicals, agrochemicals, inorganic salts and acids, perfumery and cosmetics, medicaments, plastics, animal fibers, textile and fabrics, clothing and footwear, leather, construction equipment and materials, cement, software, among others.

Colombia is also known as an important global source of emeralds, while over 70% of cut flowers imported by the United States are Colombian. Non-traditional exports have boosted the growth of Colombian foreign sales as well as the diversification of destinations of export thanks to new free trade agreements.  Principal trading partners are the United States, China, the European Union and some Latin American countries.

The electricity production in Colombia comes mainly from renewable energy sources. 67.8% is obtained from the hydroelectric generation. Colombia's commitment to renewable energy was recognized in the 2014 Global Green Economy Index (GGEI), ranking among the top 10 nations in the world in terms of greening efficiency sectors.

The financial sector has grown favorably due to good liquidity in the economy, the growth of credit and in general to the positive performance of the Colombian economy. The Colombian Stock Exchange through the Latin American Integrated Market (MILA) offers a regional market to trade equities. Colombia is also the best place for doing business in Latin America according to the World Bank.

Tourism in Colombia is an important sector in the country's economy. Foreign tourist visits were predicted to have risen from 0.6 million in 2007 to 2.2 million in 2013

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