San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

European Union Approves Regional Preference System

THE European Union has approved itsnew Generalized Preference System(GPS), which grants Costa Rica and othercountries with “special developmentneeds” lower tariffs on exports, the ForeignTrade Ministry announced Monday.The new system will be in effect fromJan. 1, 2006 to Dec. 31, 2008, but CostaRica and other countries that have qualifiedfor provisional “GPS Plus” status by meetingsustainable development and “soundgovernment” standards will benefit fromthe incentive system beginning today,according to a ministry statement.To achieve permanent membership inthe “GPS Plus” group, Costa Rica andother developing countries have until Oct.30 to present a formal request for the status.Costa Rica will present its requesttoday, the statement said.In response to the system’s approval,Foreign Trade Minister Manuel Gonzálezreiterated the importance of Costa Rica’strade relations with the European Union –a region to which the country’s exportstotaled approximately $1 billion in 2004– and of negotiations for a so-called associationagreement, which would include afree-trade accord, with the region.Central American leaders haveexpressed hope that free-trade negotiationswith Europe will begin in May2006, the month of the next EuropeanUnion-Latin American and Caribbeansummit, which is scheduled to take placein Vienna, Austria.European and Central American leadersmet in San José in May to begin evaluatingCentral American integration efforts,on which the European Union has conditionedthe beginning of free-trade negotiations.

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