San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Costa Rica and China complete fifth round of free-trade talks

The fifth round of free-trade talks with China concluded Friday as representatives from both countries met in Beijing to further define the details of the pending agreement.

The discussions, which spanned four days, centered on defining the regulations for the exchange of products and services between the two countries. Negotiators also discussed which agricultural products their perspective countries will open up for trade.

According to Costa Rica´s chief negotiator Fernando Ocampo, the conclusion of this round of discussions “highlighted the importance of both countries to strengthen the legal aspects that regulate the commercial relationship between China and Costa Rica.”

The Foreign Trade Ministry (COMEX), which is working from the Costa Rican side to establish the parameters of the agreement, said that the fifth round of talks allowed both countries to establish important regulations in terms of labor laws, which are vastly different between the two countries, necessary sanitary measures and the permissible limits of trade of certain agricultural products.

The products of chief interest for Costa Rica are beef and meat from China, while China hopes to acquire significant amounts of Costa Rica pineapples, bananas and coffee.

COMEX also reported that Costa Rica proposed an offer to include more Chinese electronics in the agreement, such as DVDs and sound equipment. Chinese representatives said they plan to review the proposal in the upcoming weeks.

The free-trade agreement with the Eastern giant has been highly scrutinized by Costa Rican industries, as there is a building fear that allowing China to participate in the Costa Rican market will harm the business of local producers.

“It´s going to break a lot of businesses,” said Tomás Pozuelo, president of the Food Industry Chamber, in an interview with The Tico Times. “We are a country of 4 million people and you want us to compete against a country with over a billion people? They can produce a tremendous amount of volume of goods, at a cheaper price, using cheaper labor. Costa Rican businesses, particularly industrial businesses, cannot compete with that.”

The sixth and final round of the free-trade negotiations with China is scheduled for the second week of February in 2010.

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