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Costa Ricans countdown on free trade with US

Periodico 26 (Cuba) | 9 January 2008

Costa Ricans Countdown on Free Trade with US

SAN JOSE.- The Costa Rican Congress resumed discussion Monday on the complementary agenda required by March 1 for implementation of the Central American-US Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR). Of the 13 bills needed, only 2 have been approved so far.

The commercial accord became law after the October 7, 2007 referendum where a slight majority of voters gave their approval. Nonetheless, the legislation does not take force until the complementary laws are approved. These include crucial reforms such as opening up the telecommunications and insurance monopolies.

Once the bills are passed, they must be sent to the Constitutional Court where the magistrates will have a month to rule on whether they violate the Costa Rican Constitution.

The main adversary to CAFTA is the Citizen Action Party (PAC), the largest opposition force, which has 17 of the 57 seats in the legislature. The CAP has presented hundreds of motions to block the discussions and breach the short period allocated for approval. They argue that CAFTA has been imposed by the Government of Oscar Arias.

Just looking at the bill regarding vegetables, one of the laws already approved, CAP presented 1,097 motions for revision. The law grants an operating license to those who produce genetically-altered seeds.

The CAFTA-DR member countries besides Costa Rica are Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, US and the Dominican Republic. Costa Rica is the only country where the agreement has yet to take force, reported AFP.

 source: Periodico 26