Costa Rica and Singapore will begin talks on a free-trade agreement, President Oscar Arias announced this week in a move that will further strengthen economic ties with Asia.
Arias, who discussed the treaty during a four-day visit to Singapore, said last year that Costa Rica should sign free-trade agreements “with the whole world, if possible.”
Costa Rica will begin negotiations on a free-trade treaty with China in January. A treaty with Panama recently took effect. Costa Rica is negotiating a deal with the European Union and close to finalizing the Central American Free-Trade Agreement with the United States (CAFTA).
A tiny and densely populated citystate with a largely ethnic Chinese citizenry, Singapore has a per capita income of more than seven times Costa Rica’s. Manufacturing and services are the main engines of Singapore’s powerhouse economy, according to the U.S. State Department Web site.
Costa Rica opened an embassy in Singapore in October 2007, and Arias has sought to enter the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation group, whose 21 members work to reduce trade barriers across the Asia-Pacific region.
Costa Rica’s exports to Singapore last year totaled $31.5 million, while imports totaled $26.4 million.
During his visit, Arias met with Singapore President Sellapan Rama Nathan and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. He also held a round table discussion with Singaporean businessmen open to investing in Costa Rica.
Representatives from the telecommunications, tourism and electronics firms attended the conference, hosted by International Enterprise Singapore.
Francisco Jiménez, president of the Atlantic Port Authority, later accompanied Arias on a visit to Singapore’s port, one of the busiest and most efficient in the world.
The port is run by PSA International, which operates terminals at 28 ports in 16 countries in Europe, Asia and Latin America.
The Arias administration will soon open a bidding process to companies around the world interested in developing the Caribbean ports of Limón and Moín, which handle roughly 80 percent of the country’s imports and exports.
“Costa Rica would be an interesting opportunity” for PSA International, said Neil Davidson, director of ports at Drewry Shipping Consultants in London. “They’re quite an active company in terms of expansion, and they regularly appear as bidders for new concessions or privatization.”
Singapore’s presence in Latin America is modest but growing. The country has a free trade agreement with Panama and Chile, and PSA International has won concessions to run terminals in Panama and Argentina.