San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Clock ticks on free trade pact with U.S.

As Costa Rican lawmakers return today from a weeklong vacation, time grows tight to pass two laws required to implement the Central American Free-Trade Agreement with the United States (CAFTA).


Lawmakers must pass a bill amending the agreement, as well as a bill that strengthens intellectual property rights, before an Oct. 1 deadline.


The Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court (Sala IV) is now deciding whether the intellectual property bill is constitutional and will likely release an opinion in mid-September. Lawmakers then must pass the bill in a second and final debate. 


If the Sala IV finds that the bill violates the Constitution, Costa Rica will miss its deadline.


The amendments bill, which would enable Costa Rica to enter CAFTA 90 days earlier than the treaty now allows, was approved by the Sala IV this month and awaits a second debate in the Legislative Assembly.


CAFTA was ratified in a referendum last October, and lawmakers have passed 11 of the 13 bills required to implement the pact. The initial deadline for implementing CAFTA was Feb. 29, but President Oscar Arias had to ask his trading partners for an extension.

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