San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

As China-Costa Rica trade talks push forward, so does resistance

As deliberations over a possible free-trade agreement (FTA) between Costa Rica and China continue, opposition from some of Costa Rica´s leading business associations is growing stronger.

“The country has not made a case as to why the country needs this free-trade agreement,” Tomás Pozuelo, president of the Food Industry Chamber (CACIA), told The Tico Times on Wednesday.

The CACIA and other groups including Costa Rica´s Chamber of Industries have become more vocal in their protest against the agreement. Fernando Ocampo, the Costa Rican Foreign Trade Ministry´s chief negotiator, who last week wrapped up the fourth round of trade negotiations with his Chinese counterparts, expects the deal will reach a final handshake in February 2010.

That would create enormous challenges for local businesses, say the deal´s detractors.

“China is not a democracy, it works on different rules, it makes the cheapest products in the world. The question is, why are we doing this? What is the benefit to us? This is why we are against the treaty. No one has been able to tell us why we´re creating this agreement,” Pozuelo said.

For the foreign trade authorities, however, the reasons for creating the FTA are obvious, and the benefits it will provide are too juicy to pass up.

“China has a consumption level that is growing every year and provides the opportunity to improve the amount of Costa Rican exports,” said Ocampo. “The agreement will also benefit local markets as the amount of Chinese investment enters the country.”

As the countdown to February continues, business leaders realize their lone opportunity to halt the agreement will come when the FTA is considered for approval in the Legislative Assembly. The industrial chambers said they are seeking to sway lawmakers over to their side of the debate.

See the Sept. 25 print or digital edition of The Tico Times for more on this story.

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