Singapore and agreed on a schedule for the elimination of tariffs this week during the first round of the free trade negotiations between the two nations.
“Singapore is a great exporter,” said Costa Rican chief negotiator Fernando Ocampo on Wednesday morning, Singapore time, adding that the Asian city-state exported about $7 billion worth of goods to Costa Rica in 2008.
This first round of talks ended on Wednesday after three days of exchanges between the two countries on topics such as customs proceedings and technical barriers to trade, such as product specifications and evaluations.
“The Singaporean consumer is willing to pay high prices for products of high quality,” Ocampo told reporters via video conference at the Foreign Trade Ministry (COMEX).
Although Singapore is a tiny nation, covering only 271 square-miles on the tip of the Malay Peninsula, its economy is one of the strongest in the world. Its financial system depends heavily on exports, for the most part from its industrial and electronic sectors.
Singapore’s per capita income is seven times greater than that than Costa Rica’s, per the U.S. Department of State’s Web site, while the majority of its imports are food items, which Costa Rica is in a good position to help supply.
“Singapore is an (ideal) partner for commercial alliance (purposes) due to its similarities with Costa Rica,” Ocampo said, Ocampo said that Singapore and Costa Rica have complementing needs, as Costa Rica can benefit from Singapore’s advancements in port technology and telecommunications, while Singapore’s can take advantage of the array of food products, such as beef, chicken, sugar and coffee, that Costa Rica is famous for exporting.
According to the World Competitiveness Yearbook 2008, published by the International Institute for Management Development (IMD), Singapore ranks as the second most competitive economy in the world.
Negotiators from both sides hope to conclude the talks in no more than four meetings. The next round will take place at the end of June here in Costa Rica, while the third and fourth rounds will be held in the beginning of September and early November, respectively.
These negotiations became a reality as part of Costa Rican President Oscar Arias’ goal to strengthen economic ties with Asia during his term.
Meanwhile, COMEX minister Marco Vinicio Ruiz told reporters this week about Costa Rica’s wish to enter the Asian Pacific Economic Cooperation forum (APEC). APEC is a group of 21 countries that meet on a regular basis to cooperate on regional trade, among other objectives. Singapore will hold APEC’s presidency next year.
Costa Rica was invited to attend the group’s next APEC 2009 CEO Summit taking place in November, although the group will not formally accept new members until 2010.
“Costa Rica’s has always wanted to be part of that group,” Ruiz said on Tuesday. “We are in a very fortunate position. We have received an official invitation to be part of some of the teams in different committees.”
Vanessa I. Garnica