San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Free Trade With Singapore Is Near

Costa Rica is nearing a final handshake on the first free trade agreement of the decade, as delegates from Singapore have been in town this week to discuss the final workings of an accord between the two countries.

In the fourth and expected final meeting, at the Double Tree Cariari Hotel in Heredia, north of San José, negotiators are in the process of deciding upon the sanitary, shipment and  rules-of-origin regulations that will be imposed on products traded between the two countries.

Costa Rica and Singapore also are making final decisions on which products will be traded free of international tariffs. As of Wednesday, it appeared that both countries were leaning towards lifting tariffs across all product markets.

“At this time, we believe that in this agreement, there will not be one product excluded,” said Fernando Ocampo, Costa Rica’s chief negotiator in a statement released by the Foreign Trade Ministry (COMEX). “The idea is that, if we have a consensus in the theme of rules of origin, the free trade agreement will have a 100 percent coverage of products.”

Discussions this week generally have centered on rules-of-origin regulations, which are put in place to ensure that a product purchased from Singapore was not originally manufactured in a different country. This ensures that products included in the free trade agreement originate only in Costa Rican and Singapore. As of Wednesday, Singapore had accepted 95 percent of the regulations that ensure products exported to Costa Rica are not made of raw materials from other countries.

According to COMEX, Singapore has expressed particular interest in agricultural products such as coffee, fruits, vegetables and prepared foods. Costa Rica has expressed interest in trading types of plastic and metal products.

Singapore, a series of islands south of Malaysia and north of Indonesia, is a central port and distribution center for much of Asia. In 2007, Costa Rica’s exports to Singapore totaled $31.5 million, while imports totaled $26.4 million.

Costa Rica also established an embassy in Singapore in October 2007.

The population of Singapore is around 4.6 million, slightly more than Costa Rica’s estimated 4.5 million.

The free trade agreement between Costa Rica and Singapore is expected to be approved on Friday.

–Adam Williams

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