San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Countries Accuse Costa Rica of Serious Trade Violations

Thirty-five countries have filed complaints against Costa Rica for the extent to which it subsidizes its agricultural sector.

Representatives from at least eight countries spoke out against the Central American nation yesterday at a meeting of the World Trade Organization’s Agriculture Committee. They accused Costa Rica of violating international trade agreements and threatened to apply sanctions.

According to Foreign Trade Minister Anabel González, Costa Rica is allowed to provide $15.9 million annually in domestic agricultural subsidies. In 2007, Costa Rica gave the farming sector $23 million, and that number grew to $62 million in 2008 and $92 million in 2009. For 2010, González projects subsidies to be at $100 million. The subsidies are concentrated in the production of rice, which is the only agricultural product for which the government sets prices.

“This is a serious issue,” González said, “and it has to be dealt with seriously. We have obligations to the international community.”

U.S. representatives said the violation has passed from being within a “gray area” into clear noncompliance.

However, when pressured to propose a solution during a press conference on Friday, González said only that this issue would be a “priority” in coming months. 

“When a country commits to international agreements, when it has benefited from the agreements, when it knows the rules and when it has violated them, it stands to lose,” she said.

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