San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

South Korea Initiates Trade Talks with Panama, Costa Rica

The industrial powerhouse of South Korea, home of Samsung, LG, Kia and Hyundai, is looking to bridge ties with Central America.

At the Central American Integration System (SICA) meeting in Panama City this week, South Korean President Lee Myungbak pledged investments in security initiatives across the region and began discussing the possibility of a free trade agreement with Costa Rica and Panama.

The SICA meeting this past week marked the first time Honduras has participated since former President Manuel Zelaya was ousted in a coup last year. According to the secretary of SICA, Juan Daniel Alemán, relationships have been normalized and there is no need for a formal announcement about Honduras’s reintegration, as Honduras was never formally expelled.

Nicaragua is the only country in Central America that has yet to recognize the legitimacy of the new Honduran presidency under Porfirio “Pepe” Lobo. The president of Nicaragua, Daniel Ortega, did not attend the recent meeting, reporting that he was sick. He sent a delegation in his place.

Like recently inaugurated Lobo, this was Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla’s first appearance before SICA.

During her trip, Chinchilla also met with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who attended the SICA meeting as an observer. Berlusconi was in Panama to promote greater economic ties between Italy and the region, and to oversee progress on the expansion of the Panama Canal in which an Italian company is participating.

–Chrissie Long

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