By Simon Robinson
DAVOS, Switzerland (Reuters) - Colombia's President Ivan Duque said technology companies were welcome in his country, but they had to operate on a level playing field with local firms.
"It's smart regulation to level the field and to … not … have unfair competition among parties," he told Reuters at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum.
Duque's comments follow a court order late last year against ride-hailing company Uber Technologies Inc. The Andean country has ordered Uber to cease operations after a judge said it violated competition rules.
Uber said it will stop operating in Colombia at the end of January, but has called the legal ruling "arbitrary" and a violation of its right to due process. It has also said it will use all legal avenues to defend the rights of its 2 million users and 88,000 drivers in the country.
Colombia's regulators have sparred with other start-ups, including delivery juggernaut Rappi, over whether they are complying with e-commerce and labor laws.
"What you cannot tolerate in Colombia, in any place, is that you have unfair competition," Duque said, pointing to controversies around Uber in countries such as Germany, Spain and the United States.
"There's no policy against technology as an instrument to connect consumers and the sellers of a product."
Entrepreneurs have said Colombia's regulations are out-dated and may threaten its status as the region's second-most popular destination for entrepreneurial investment after much larger Brazil.
But Duque said Colombia was open for business.
"Colombia is a country that has been very attractive for technology. Colombia is a country that has rule of law."
(Editing by Alexander Smith)