San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Chinese president leaves gifts behind in whirlwind tour of Costa Rica

Costa Rica and China signed 11 agreements yesterday on free trade, education, energy and aid during Chinese President Hu Jintao´s first Central American visit, which lasted less than 24 hours.

The China National Petroleum Corporation agreed to help Costa Rica expand its refinery in Moín on the Caribbean coast at a total cost of about $1 billion, to be split between the two nations. The refinery, which could be completed in 2013, would be able to process 60,000 barrels a day, up from 25,000 currently, said José León Desanti, president of the National Oil Refinery (RECOPE).

China and Costa Rica will also begin negotiations for a free-trade agreement Jan. 19 in San José. Foreign Trade Minister Marco Vinicio Ruiz said he expected to complete talks by May 2010, when President Oscar Arias leaves office.

In addition, China has agreed to establish a Confucius Institute at the University of Costa Rica (UCR) to spread Chinese language and culture. The institute will open in the coming weeks with four Chinese language professors, said UCR president Yamileth González.

China also pledged additional funds for the construction of a national stadium in La Sabana Park on the western edge of San José. China will now invest $83 million in the stadium, $10 million more than originally expected.

State banks Banco de Costa Rica and Banco Nacional will each receive credit lines of $40 million from the China Development Bank.

Hu, the first Chinese head of state to visit Central America, signaled his readiness to further tighten ties with Costa Rica.

“China is willing to intensify our contacts with the Costa Rican government, Congress and political parties…to cooperate further in such sectors as the economy, commerce, finance, energy, science, technology, the reduction of poverty and tourism, among other issues,” he said at a press conference, as Arias nodded slightly at his side. 

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