If all goes as planned, Costa Rica and Peru will be free-trade partners by the end of the month.
On Monday, Foreign Trade Minister Anabel González and members of the Foreign Trade Promotion Office (Procomer) met with Peruvian Foreign Trade and Tourism Minister Eduardo Ferreyros and members of the Peruvian Trade Chamber to finalize the details of a free-trade agreement between the two countries. Free-trade negotiations between the two Latin American nations began in Sept. 2010.
The finalization of the free-trade agreement followed a trade mission between small- and medium-sized businesses from the two countries last week. During the fair, which included 15 national businesses and 75 from Peru, Costa Rican exporters promoted products that would be included in the free-trade agreement, such as beans, heart of palm, rice, chocolate, computer software, construction materials and many more food and miscellaneous products.
“These commercial missions open concrete opportunities for the Costa Rican export sector,” said the Jorge Sequeira, the general manager of Procomer. “It gives us the opportunity to explore first hand the needs of the local economy, make contacts and better identify areas to be able to internationalize our products to larger markets.”
From 2000-2010, trade between Costa Rica and Peru, a nation of 30 million people, grew at an annual rate of 8.7 percent. However, after six years of growth in export sales from Costa Rica to Peru, in 2010, exports to the South American country fell from $34.9 million to $12.9 million, a 63 percent decrease. In 2010, imports from Peru hit an all-time high of $35.3 million, creating a lopsided trade deficit of $22.5 million for Costa Rica.
Despite the benefits of the free-trade agreement touted by Procomer and the Foreign Trade Ministry (COMEX), Marco Cercone, the President of the Food Industry Chamber (CACIA) voiced concern with the pact. The Peru free-trade agreement is the third pact that Costa Rica currently has pending. The other agreements are with China and the European Union.
“We are an open sector and there will always be interest in the food industry to export our products to all the country of the world,” said Cercone. “However, the big worry of the chamber is that free-trade depends on the conditions of competitiveness to remain sustainable. These agreements don’t permit our producers much flexibility if conditions suffer.”
According to the Foreign Trade Ministry (COMEX), tariffs on 80 percent of the products imported and exported between the two countries will be reduced during the next few weeks. González said she hopes the free-trade agreement will be signed by the end of the month.