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Costa Rica’s Solís calls for revival of free trade agreement with Canada

October 29, 2014

President Luis Guillermo Solís said there was a need to “refresh” Costa Rica’s 12-year-old free trade agreement with Canada during a video press conference Tuesday afternoon. The president made the statement after concluding his two-day trade mission to the North American country.

Foreign Trade Minister (COMEX) Alexander Mora said that Costa Rica’s economy and offerings have changed since the 2002 agreement was signed, noting that the service sector, like call centers and off-site financial services, were not covered in the agreement.

“After meetings with several different sectors it became clear that there was a need to revise the terms of the treaty,” Mora said.

The minister said that more recent free trade agreements with the United States and the European Union could serve as templates going forward. Officials did not give a date for when negotiations could take place.

Victor Manuel Ruiz, vice president of the Union of Private-Sector Chambers and Associations, an organization that represents over 40 national businesses, said he hoped that a revival of the free trade agreement would increase trade and create new, quality jobs for Costa Ricans. The trade mission mentioned that clean energy, financial services and manufacturing companies expressed interest in operations here.

“More than the treaty, which is a necessary instrument that needs to be reviewed, it’s more important that Canadian businesses and investors see Costa Rica with new interest,” Solís added.

The president did not announce any specific new investments or jobs, but said that the delegation had productive meetings with clean energy – especially solar – manufacturing, and financial services, among others.

Solís said that the Crucitas gold mining case did not come up during his meetings with investors and business representatives. Former Environment Minster Roberto Dobles (2006-2010) went on trial Monday on corruption charges related to the approval of an open-pit gold mining concession to British Columbia-based Infinito Gold.

Despite a free trade agreement, Costa Rica exported just $80 million, less than the United States, Mexico, and many EU countries, to Canada in 2013, according to figures from COMEX. Canadian foreign investment also lags behind many of Costa Rica’s other trading partners, averaging $34.6 million annually during the last five years.

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