San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Costa Rica to join CAFTA Jan. 1

President Oscar Arias´ administration yesterday applauded a move in Washington that clears the way for this nation to join the Central American Free-Trade Agreement with the United States (CAFTA).

President George W. Bush issued a proclamation letting Costa Rica into the pact on Jan. 1.

“With these negotiations, we´ve finalized the process of approval and implementation of CAFTA, which Costa Rica initiated more than four years ago, following the signing of the trade agreement on August 5, 2004,” Foreign Trade Minister Marco Vinicio Ruiz said. “Finally, the Arias administration is fulfilling the popular mandate that the people of Costa Rica gave us in the Referendum of October 7, 2007.”

Despite the referendum, lawmakers were tasked with approving the treaty bill by bill, including controversial reforms to laws from intellectual property rights to telecommunications, in a drawn out process that required two deadline extensions from the other signatory countries.

Presidency Minister Rodrigo Arias, the president´s brother, said the treaty is a much needed sign of unity. “This is the moment for us to come to agreement because there are many subjects such as the world financial crisis and its effects on which we all have to work together. That´s what Costa Ricans are hoping for,” he said.

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