Mexican President-elect Felipe Calderón visited Casa Presidencial Tuesday to talk with President Oscar Arias about free trade, regional integration and Latin American trends.
Calderón, who takes office Dec. 1, invited Arias to the inauguration and said he looks forward to a cooperative relationship with Costa Rica, praising its leadership in the region. He praised the country’s environmental record and said he hopes to implement measures to combat deforestation similar to programs Costa Rica has applied.
One of the key topics discussed during the leaders’ meeting was the Plan Puebla Panama (PPP), an initiative Mexico proposed in 2001 and which, according to Calderón, needs careful revision. The plan would develop continuous infrastructure between southern Mexico and Central America, particularly in the area of energy.
One of these projects is the construction of a $3 billion refinery for Mexican oil in Central America, with aid from Mexico. Calderón said it is still possible for Costa Rica to win out as the refinery site – it is competing with Panama for the honor – though the choice will eventually be up to investors.
Both Presidents emphasized the importance of free trade for their countries.
Calderón said he does not want to get involved in the debate surrounding the Central American Free-Trade Agreement with the United States (CAFTA), now being discussed in Costa Rica’s Legislative Assembly, but called for a “discussion of merits” and cited benefits Mexico has enjoyed since ratifying the North American Free-Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1994.
Calderón also visited Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador and left Costa Rica after his meeting with Arias to head to Colombia as he continues his pre-inaugural tour of Latin America. Before he headed to Costa Rica Tuesday, he attended a Central American Integration System (SICA) regional security summit in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, where participants signed a “Declaration of Tegucigalpa” outlining 20 immediate actions they plan to take to combat the violence they say plagues the region.