The German minister of economic cooperation and development arrived in Costa Rica Wednesday to talk environmental conservation and renewable energy, and to continue strengthening bonds between the two countries.
Minister Dirk Niebel met with politicians, including President Laura Chinchilla, Environment Minister René Castro and Foreign Minister Enrique Castillo. Niebel’s Costa Rica trip is part of a two-country tour of Germany’s Latin American trade partners, which also includes a stop in Chile.
“Costa Rica plays a fundamental role in the development of the region, [and] in regional and international programs of cooperation that Germany supports, specifically in the area of environmental conservation,” said German Ambassador Ernst Martens at a press conference Monday.
Niebel arrived with a cohort of 27 people including representatives of German renewable energy and sustainable tourism businesses. Martens pointed out that the two countries share many similarities, particularly in areas of environmental conservation and the development of green economies. Strengthening ties along those lines, Martens said, is one of the key points of the minister’s visit. Costa Rica aims to generate 100 percent of its energy from renewable resources by 2014, and Germany is a major producer and exporter of renewable energy technologies such as photovoltaic solar cells and wind turbine systems.
Bilateral trade between Costa Rica and Germany reached $382 million in 2010. According to statistics provided by the German Embassy, Costa Rica imported $276 million in goods from Germany and exported $106 million in 2010, making Germany Costa Rica’s top trading partner of European Union countries. Germans are major buyers of Costa Rican coffee and pineapples and approximately 50,000 German tourists visited Costa Rica in 2010 – an increase of some 5,000 visitors over 2009.
Costa Rica buys machinery, industrial chemicals and pharmaceuticals from Germany.
In May of last year, German President Christian Wulff made a state visit to Costa Rica during which he discussed German-Costa Rican cooperation in areas of sustainable development and renewable energy. In September 2011, EARTH University and the Renewables Academy in Berlin opened the first renewable energy laboratory in Central America at EARTH’s campus in the Caribbean slope town of Guácimo. The goal of the laboratory is to promote the use of alternative energies and to reduce Costa Rican dependence on fossil fuel, according to information supplied by the German Embassy.
Hermann Heise, president of the board of directors of the Germany-Costa Rica Chamber of Commerce said: “Costa Rica is a model to all the world of how tourism and economic development” can continue without negative impacts.
Both countries aim to be leaders in green innovation and green economies in coming years, Heise indicated, which means many opportunities for development and collaboration.