San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Costa Rica and Singapore to talk free trade

Costa Rica and Singapore will begin talks on a free-trade agreement, President Oscar Arias said yesterday in a move that will help cement his legacy as a strong proponent of trade liberalization.

Arias, who has long lobbied for greater economic ties with Asia, announced the news after meeting with Singapore President Sellapan Rama Nathan and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

Costa Rica´s exports to Singapore last year totaled $31.5 million, while imports totaled $26.4 million.

Costa Rica will begin negotiations on a free-trade agreement with China in January. A treaty with Panama recently took effect, and Costa Rica is close to entering the Central American Free-Trade Agreement with the United States (CAFTA).

Arias said last year that Costa Rica should sign free-trade agreements “with the whole world, if possible.”

Arias also held a round table discussion with Singaporean businessmen open to investing in Costa Rica. Representatives from telecommunications, tourism and electronics firms attended the conference, hosted by International Enterprise Singapore.

A tiny and densely populated city-state with a largely ethnic Chinese citizenry, Singapore has a per capita income of more than seven times Costa Rica´s. Manufacturing and services are the main engines of Singapore´s powerhouse economy, according to the U.S. State Department Web site.

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