Costa Rica and Panama kicked off the fourth round of negotiations for a freetrade agreement in San José Tuesday.
During the negotiations, which will last until the end of next week, the two countries will try to reach agreements on access to markets.
Costa Rica’s Foreign Trade Minister Marco Vinicio Ruiz called Panama a “very important market for Costa Rica, where our exports have grown in recent years and we maintain a positive trade balance.”
Ruiz said it is Costa Rica’s goal to wrap up the negotiations by the end of this year.
Gabriela Castro, Panamanian Foreign Trade Director, said this round will have four areas of negotiation: market access, rules of origin, services and investment and public contracts.
Negotiators will debate issues related to the finance sector and international trade, as well as the Costa Rican state telecommunications monopoly.
Costa Rica will come to the table seeking access to public contracts in Panama with its sights on Panama Canal projects.
In 2005, Costa Rica exported $207 million to Panamá, 12.7% more than in 2004.
Main exports to the southern neighbor include medicines, electric conductors, food preparation and fungicides.
Panama exported $121.3 million to Costa Rica in 2005, 9.4% less than in 2004. The top imports were medicine, oil and tuna.