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Costa Rica seeks more time – again – on CAFTA

September 12, 2008

For the second time, Costa Rica is seeking to extend its deadline for entering the Central American Free-Trade Agreement with the United States (CAFTA).

Vice President Laura Chinchilla met with Peter Brennan, the chargé d´affaires at the U.S. Embassy, on Friday to request more time to enter the pact, according to the daily La Nación.

Chinchilla said the country would miss its Oct. 1 deadline after the Supreme Court on Thursday struck down an intellectual property law designed to put Costa Rica in compliance with CAFTA.

“We are convinced – and this is the message that we want to give Costa Ricans – that we will still be able to enter CAFTA,” Chinchilla said at an Thursday night. She then turned to a soccer metaphor: “In the last few minutes of the game, we have been dealt a yellow card. We don´t think it´s a red card.”

The Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court (Sala IV) found that lawmakers had failed to consult indigenous groups when debating the bill, as required under a 1989 United Nations convention. Lawmakers must now fix their error and pass the bill again.

The proposal was the last of 13 bills required for Costa Rica to enter CAFTA, which was ratified in a national referendum last October. After lawmakers missed a Feb. 29 deadline for passing the bills, Costa Rica´s trading partners granted the country a seven-month extension.

Chinchilla said the administration will decide how much more time to request once the Sala IV releases its full ruling. The other CAFTA signers – the United States, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic – have all entered the treaty.

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