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How the GK EMBA helped an International Lawyer Take National Office in Colombia

September 13, 2021

Congratulations to Andrés Cárdenas, from the Guanghua-Kellogg EMBA Program cohort of GK05, for having assumed the post of Vice Minister of International Trade of the Colombian National Government this August! In this new role, Andrés has taken responsibility for trade-related policymaking, bilateral and multi-national negotiations, international investment and cooperation.

The Guanghua-Kellogg EMBA Program equips executives with the business acumen and network necessary to thrive, cultivating "China Knowledge, Global Leadership" and preparing its global cohort to lead their organizations to success in China and worldwide, exemplified by Andrés' recent assignment to this high-level national position.

Before taking office in Colombia, Andrés returned to PKU's campus for an interview where he shared the good news and how the GK EMBA facilitated his career growth.


Andrés Cárdenas

Student Introduction


  Andrés Cárdenas  

Andrés Cárdenas is a lawyer with 15 years of professional experience. Before taking the post of Colombia's Vice Minister of International Trade, in 2013 he founded 1493 Law Firm (www.1493.co), an international Law Firm operating in Bogotá, Beijing,  Madrid and Miami deeply specializing in internationalization and financing for start ups. He advised companies, states and non-governmental organizations in strategic processes of negotiation, expansion, financing, internationalization, and applying international law in different countries. He served five years as a consultant to the Foreign Investment and Services Directorate of the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Tourism, where he advised the Colombian Government in the negotiation of Free Trade Agreements and bilateral investment treaties, participating in international negotiation rounds with different countries in Asia and the European Union. Andrés also worked as a professor at the Law School of Universidad Externado in Colombia, where he led the research group on International Contracts and Dispute Resolution.

Watch the Full Interview

Q1. How did you decide to pursue the Guanghua-Kellogg EMBA?

My family moved to China three years ago because of my wife's career. When I first came, I was very curious about the new environment and wanted to know more about the business culture here in China. I first started to look for Ph.D. programs, but during my research, I found this joint EMBA program by Guanghua and Kellogg. Because I'm a lawyer and an entrepreneur, if I went to a Ph.D. program, I would spend long hours alone in the library, so I thought to take the chance to meet business leaders through this EMBA program instead.


Guanghua is one of the best-known business schools in Asia.  

Actually, the first time I heard about Guanghua was years ago, when I attended the APEC conference as a delegate of the Colombian Government. At that time, I met the Director of Macro-Economics from the APEC. She told me that her dream was to pursue a Ph.D. degree at Guanghua, because Guanghua is one of the most well-known business schools in Asia. From that moment, I always kept Guanghua's name in my mind, so when I saw this GK EMBA program, I saw the opportunity to join not only an international program but one still in Guanghua, with local knowledge that applies to China.

Q2. After a few years of studying here, do you think the GK EMBA program fulfilled your original expectations?

This program completely fulfilled my expectation from the first day. For me as a lawyer, it's not easy to face new concepts at work. But here in GK, I encountered financial, management, marketing knowledge on a daily basis, which was a whole new discipline to me and a challenging process to go through. But thanks to the flexibility and hospitality of the professors, I can freely ask them questions during class, breaks, and even by exchanging emails. We all heard about the Chinese culture of hospitality – the GK program really made me personally feel this from the very first day.


Guanghua's classes have given me all the insights I need to understand the uniqueness of the Chinese market.  

I would like to specifically mention the class “Political Economy” taught by Professor Li-an Zhou, where he explained to us the whole system in China, including how things worked in the past, the present and the future. That class has given me all the insights I need to understand how to build relationships with local governments, and how China's way of thinking is unique from the rest of the world.


The last module was a perfect match for my new role.  

Besides that, it's very lucky that the last module I took was “Negotiation Strategies” and “Strategic Crisis Management”. The timing of these two classes was amazing for me because the topics will be exactly what I'm going to deal with in the next few weeks. I will negotiate with different stakeholders to balance interests between exporters, producers and importers. And for crisis management, Latin America, as well as the entire world, is now impacted by Covid-19. There are persistent crises to handle when I take office.

Q3. In the midst of the current global situation, what's your view about your new role and international trade as a whole?

Now I have been offered the opportunity by the Colombian government to become the Vice Minister of International Trade, starting on August 9th. In the new post, I will be in charge of all policymaking and implementation, as well as foreign investments in Colombia.

Taking the position after Covid-19, I think the main challenge will largely relate to tariffs. All countries have become more protectionist right now; trade defense cases are starting to rise, and there will be a lot of tariffs increases. For Colombia, we have to block some of the products that are produced abroad, but at the same time, we need inputs to continue our own transformation. We have to find a balance between these two extremes.


Covid-19 has brought opportunities to the exchange of services, especially e-commerce.  

From a positive perspective, Covid-19 has also brought opportunities to the exchange of services, especially e-commerce. As you can recall here in China during SARS, there was a boom in e-commerce. Right now, it's the same for Latin America. Our consumers have started to change their behavior.  Even my parents, both in their 70s, have to buy daily supplies through online platforms. I see this as a great opportunity for e-trade, FinTech, and the whole ecosystem which can be built around this shopping and consumption behavior.

Q4. How do you see China's position in Colombia's international trade and collaborations?

In recent years, we have seen China proudly showing itself and its position to the world, and during Covid-19, I have also noticed how the diplomacy of China is changing the world. I think after the pandemic, there is a call to China to assume its global leadership role.

Between Colombia and China, there is a huge opportunity to further develop our relationship. Our president visited China in 2018, inviting China to become a strategic partner of Colombia. After this meeting, I have seen large infrastructure projects starting to launch. Colombia has also obtained permission for the first time to export avocados to China.


Between Colombia and China, there is a huge opportunity to further develop our relationship.  

Another field I want to draw attention to is the software development industry. There are a lot of digital companies in China looking for developers. The good news is that Colombia has now raised a new generation of software developers. Increasingly, there is a cooperation between the two countries' digital companies. I actively call on Chinese entrepreneurs to see Colombia not only as a source of fruit and coffee, but also as a source of software development.While both economies have come a long way, obstacles to continued growth remain.  

Q5. For the new incoming GK students, is there anything you would like to share?

Do not hesitate to make friends from the first day. No matter what your original purpose of joining this GK program is, it's a good opportunity to expand your network while making life-long friends. Second, try to take all the courses you can , because you never know what will happen in the future of your career. In the end, I'm very happy to share my career progression with my GK family. I'm sure that my experience with this EMBA program has given me a lot of insights as well as a good foundation to move forward.

About The GK EMBA

The Guanghua-Kellogg Executive MBA program is a global partnership between Peking University's Guanghua School of Management and Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management. With 12 week-long modules spreading across a period of 22 months, the program empowers business leaders to inspire growth in themselves and their organizations while building an international network capable of driving future collaborations.

Admissions for the GK Class of 2024 starting in September 2022 are now open. To learn more about the program, we invite you to book a 1-on-1 chat with our admissions team. You can also learn more by downloading the program's brochure.