Costa Rica signs free trade agreement with European Free Trade Association

Costa Rica on Monday signed a Free Trade Agreement with the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), an organization that includes Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein.

Foreign Trade Minister Anabel González confirmed the agreement on her Facebook page.

González said the agreement “will help create new opportunities for trade and investment, strengthen bilateral relationships and build a closer partnership.”

The signing came after five rounds of negotiations that included both Costa Rica and Panama with the EFTA countries, which concluded in December 2012. Panama also signed the treaty on Monday.

According to Costa Rica’s Foreign Trade Promotion Office (PROCOMER), exports to these countries have been practically nonexistent, as only sporadic shipments were registeredin 2011 and none in 2012. However, PROCOMER said there are some 450 local products with high export potential, mainly agricultural, such as coffee and bananas.

The Foreign Trade Ministry reported that the agreement is a continuation of the Association Agreement with the European Union that is currently awaiting approval in a second round of debate at the Legislative Assembly, and that would allow Costa Rica to establish trade links with the entire European region.

The European Free Trade Association is a free trade organization between these four European countries that operates in parallel with – and is linked to – the European Union (EU). The EFTA was established on May 3, 1960, as a trade bloc-alternative for European states that were either unable or unwilling to join the then-European Economic Community, which has now become the EU.