MEMBERS of Costa Rica’s negotiating team for the Central America Free-Trade Agreement (CAFTA) with the United States have warned legislators the country could be subject to sanctions if it does not approve a bill to reform the Costa Rican Electricity and Telecom Institute (ICE) by the end of this year.
As part of CAFTA negotiations, which Costa Rica and the United States concluded in January, Costa Rica agreed to open ICE’s telecom monopoly in three areas –broadband Internet, cellular telephones and private data networks (TT, Oct. 31, 2003, Jan. 30).
Costa Rica committed itself to approving a law aimed at modernizing and strengthening ICE by Dec. 31, 2004, according to Foreign Trade Minister Alberto Trejos. The country will also be required to draft and implement “modern legislation” to regulate the sector, including the creation of an independent regulatory authority for telecom services by Jan. 1, 2006.
The warning was issued last week as Trejos and head Costa Rican CAFTA negotiator Anabel González testified before the Special Mixed Commission on ICE, which includes legislators, business groups, union leaders and others.
According to Trejos, if Costa Rica does not meet the agreed deadlines, the United States could turn to CAFTA’s dispute-settlement mechanism and then approve sanctions against the country.
A large number of deputies have complained about “being forced” to meet the deadlines. They said the Legislative Assembly – the organ in charge of studying and approving these reforms – was not consulted on the content of the reforms or the deadlines by which they need to be approved.