San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Costa Rica gets extension on CAFTA

Costa Rica has three more months to pass legislation required to enter the Central American Free-Trade Agreement with the United States (CAFTA).

The United States, the Dominican Republic and Central American signatory-states have agreed to extend Costa Rica´s Oct. 1 deadline for entering the pact.

Casa Presidencial announced the news yesterday afternoon, after Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega joined his trading partners in signing the extension.

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez, now in Costa Rica with representatives from 10 U.S. businesses, met with President Oscar Arias yesterday.

“I come to reiterate the Bush administration´s complete support for Costa Rica´s entry into CAFTA,” he said at a press conference. “It´s hard to imagine CAFTA without Costa Rica.”

Lawmakers are now working to pass the last of 13 bills required for Costa Rica to enter the treaty. But even this legislation may not meet standards set by the United States Trade Representative (USTR), Gutierrez suggested.

“I´m going to return to Washington with this priority: I want to sit down to talk with the USTR,” he said. “I want to understand if there is a problem or if there is simply a misunderstanding.”

Costa Rica signed CAFTA in May 2004 and ratified the pact in a national referendum last October. But, faced with opposition in the Legislative Assembly, President Arias has twice had to ask trading partners for more time to pass implementing legislation.

Asked how the financial crisis in the U.S. would affect Costa Rica, Gutierrez said, “What could happen …in the short or medium term is a shortage of capital, in which case … investors will have to be much more selective in deciding where to invest.”

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