As part of its massive publicity blitz this week during the first China Trade Expo in Costa Rica, China announced that it would be establishing a trade office here.
The office, part of the Asian giant’s public private China Council for the Promotion of International Trade (CCPIT), will be the first in Central America and the second in Latin America, counting the CCPIT office in Mexico.
The office should be open by the end of the year, according to Wang Jinzhen, a vicechairman for the China Council who was in Costa Rica for the trade expo. Officials said the office would help strengthen the commercial ties between the two countries and make it easier for Costa Ricans to do business in China, and vice-versa.
CCPIT’s Costa Rican counterpart, the Foreign Trade Promotion Office (PROCOMER), announced earlier this month that it would establish its own trade office in China.
Trade representatives took advantage of the trade expo and the presence of the first Chinese diplomatic delegation (see separate story) to sign some cooperation agreements and discuss the possibility of others.
The Chamber of Foreign Commerce and Representatives of Foreign Companies (CRECEX), one of the co-sponsors of the expo, signed an agreement with China Chamber of Commerce for Import and Export of Machinery and Electronic Products.
Likewise, the San José-based Chinese-Costa Rican Chamber of Commerce signed a cooperation agreement with the Chinese designed to increase exports of Costa Rican coffee to China.
Wang mentioned during a press conference that the CCPIT is interested in promoting coffee shops in China that sell Costa Rican coffee, but offered no details.
Indeed, that was how it went most of the week, with Chinese and Costa Rican officials mentioning various possibilities for cooperation between the two countries, but never nailing down details.
For example, both Chinese Assistant Foreign Minister He Yafei and Costa Rican officials mentioned the possibility of an investment security agreement between the two countries, but added that nothing concrete would come of it until after Costa Rican President Oscar Arias’ visit to China in October.
Financial assistance from China in the form of a purchase of an unspecified amount of Costa Rican debt was also given a diplomatic wink, as was the idea of a free trade agreement between Costa Rica and China.
“I think this is the first step,” CRECEX Executive Director Luis Monge said. “What there are right now, more than anything, are intentions.”
The trade fair itself is a rather small affair, with 30 Chinese companies occupying the 2,400-square-meter convention space at the Ramada Herradura Hotel, northwest of San José. The event will be open today from 2-9 p.m. and tomorrow 2-6 p.m.
The gala launch event Wednesday night was attended by Costa Rican officials including Finance Minister Guillermo Zúñiga and future Costa Rican Ambassador to China Antonio Burgués.
In an extravagant ribbon-cutting ceremony, the master of ceremonies invited eight Costa Rican and Chinese officials up on stage to do the deed.
Scissors at the ready, there was a slight pause, and the officials looked at each other, not sure how to proceed.
Finally, someone counted in English: “One, two, three!”
And the red ribbon was cut.