The Foreign Trade Ministry (COMEX) and Foreign Trade Promotion Office (Procomer) on Wednesday presented 17 new regulations to implement the Free Zone Law, which was approved by the Legislative Assembly in December.
For many, the most important of these regulations is one that will provide financial incentives to companies that elect to operate in free zones outside the Central Valley. Currently, most of the 247 companies in Costa Rica’s international free zones – known as zonas francas in Spanish – are in the Central Valley, in or near the cities of San José, Cartago, Heredia and Alajuela.
“In Costa Rica, the free-trade zone system has been an essential way for international markets to reach the country,” said Francisco Gamboa, business intelligence director of Procomer. “The businesses that operate under the system have had an important impact on the well-being of Costa Ricans, generating employment in key sectors such as high tech and manufacturing.”
In a free zone, businesses can import and export goods without barriers such as quotas or tariffs. According to COMEX, companies in the nation’s free zones employed more than 53,000 workers and accounted for $4.98 billion in exports in 2008, which was more than 54 percent of the total export revenue in Costa Rica that year.
Included in the 17 regulations is one that provides incentives to boost credit payments of small and medium-sized businesses, another that authorizes financial benefits to “megaprojects” that generate more than $10 million in exports and employ more than 100 people, and another that will aim to simplify bureaucratic processes for foreign businesses.
“The Free Zone Law allows us to maintain and support foreign direct investment in the country and attract new capital,” said Foreign Trade Minister Anabel González.
In 2009, the Costa Rican Investment Board (CINDE) reported that 29 foreign companies initiated or expanded operations in the country, accounting for more than $304 million in investment and the creation of more than 5,700 jobs.