The Barbados Advocate, Tue Jul 12 2005
Caricom/Costa Rica free trade agreement being held up
The Caricom/Costa Rica free trade agreement is being held up while Costa Rica debates what is, essentially, a model for future trade pacts.
Costa Rica is looking at the agreement as a model for the Central American Free Trade Agreement (Cafta), the trade pact between Central American countries and the US.
The agreement was signed in 2003 by Costa Rica and Caricom countries but has not yet become law. While Costa Rican legislators are not against deepening trade ties with Caricom, they are wary of putting anything in force which would then set a precedent for the region-s talks with the US.
"It’s a kind of example or test for the Cafta talks," Costa Rica Ambassador Carlos Echeverria said last week. "In the end it is going to be approved."
Echeverria said many Costa Ricans do not approve of the Cafta treaty, fearing it will damage business in that country and so are using the current debate to voice their concerns.
Costa Rica is the only Central American country that hasn’t approved the Cafta deal yet. Echeverria said his country was waiting for the US to approve the deal first. That happened last week, with the US Senate passing the trade deal, albeit with strong opposition by American sugar producers. Now that the US has passed Cafta, Costa Rican legislators will have to iron out their differences on the Caricom pact before they move forward.
In May the Caricom/Costa Rica Bill was passed unanimously in its first reading by the legislative assembly and then passed by the consulta de constitucionalidad last month.
It was at the second reading of the bill in the assembly that some concern arose. The concerns are whether the assembly has the ability to change the agreement once it has been passed by the consulta de constitucionalidad and what majority is needed to approve the treaty at its second reading.
Another cause for concern is whether a trade pact can affect Costa Rica’s territorial waters, a concern which is really aimed at ensuring that the country does not lose territory under the Cafta treaty.
The Caricom/Costa Rica trade deal was passed into law in T&T earlier this year.
In 2003, Costa Rica imported US$15 million worth from T&T and exported US$14.5 million, that was compared to imports of US$19.3 million and exports of US$6.9 million in 2002. Costa Rica imported about US$60 million from Caricom as a whole in 2003 and exported about US$160 million.