San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

CAFTA Discussion Limps Slowly Ahead

The Central American Free-Trade Agreement with the United States (CAFTA) has been under debate in the Legislative Assembly since December – but it appears little progress has been made.

The International Affairs Commission, charged with discussing the pact before sending it to the assembly’s main floor for a vote, has invited 30 leaders from various sectors to appear at its weekly CAFTA meetings, held Wednesday mornings. So far, only three people have spoken, thanks to the extensive list of questions presented by commission members, according to the daily La Nación.

Foreign Trade Ministry personnel –namely, Minister Manuel González and Vice-Minister Doris Osterlof – have made multiple appearances, and anti-CAFTA ex-President Rodrigo Carazo spoke earlier this month when González was out of the country (TT, April 7). More than two dozen others on the list remain.

What’s more, 40 additional groups are petitioning the committee for a chance to speak, the daily reported. Only time will tell whether the legislators who will take office Monday will continue with the schedule and approach of the commission.

CAFTA has already taken effect among the United States, El Salvador and Nicaragua, and has been ratified by all other signatory countries except Costa Rica.

President-elect Oscar Arias has said Costa Rica’ lawmakers will approve the agreement within six months after he takes office May 8.

“Nobody would invest a penny in this country if we’re not part of the free-trade deal with the United States,” he told the press.


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