The trade and investment climate in Venezuela remains a challenge for EU operators, not least because of the economic policies and controls put in place in recent years, such as exchange and price controls, expropriations and other forms of state intervention in the economy. The EU`s external stocks of foreign direct investment increased from €21.4 billion in 2013 to €12.9 billion in 2018. Relations are traditionally characterized by a significant trade and investment relationship and cooperation in the fight against the production and transit of illicit drugs and have been strong under the Puntofijo Pact governments in Venezuela, such as those of Carlos Andrés Pérez and Rafael Caldera. [Citation required] On 5  Nevertheless, since May 2006, in accordance with Section 40A of the Arms Export Control Law, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has banned the sale of defense items and services to Venezuela due to a lack of cooperation in counter-terrorism efforts.  Venezuela is therefore not part of the EU-Mercosur trade agreement. When American diplomat Herbert Wolcott Bowen returned to Venezuela in January 1904, he realized that Venezuela seemed more peaceful and safer. Castro would assure Bowen that the United States and Venezuela have had a strong relationship.