KINGSTON — A Costa Rican delegation led by its Minister of Foreign Trade, the Hon Anabel Gonzalez, met with Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Dr. Kenneth Baugh, on Tuesday August 9, to discuss formal implementation of a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between Costa Rica and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).
The Ministry said in a release Thursday that the day-long working visit also included meetings at the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service, and a promotional private sector event at the Spanish Court Hotel, New Kingston.
The talks at the Foreign Ministry, New Kingston, were wide ranging, and included discussions on issues related to trade and other areas of bilateral cooperation, while the afternoon session at the Spanish Court Hotel focused primarily on business opportunities, providing an opportunity for face-to-face interaction and the establishment of contacts between entrepreneurs from both countries
Speaking to representatives from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, the Jamaica Promotion Agency (JAMPRO), the Costa Rican Export Promotion Agency (PROCOMER) and the Costa Rican and Jamaican private sectors, Minister Gonzalez stated that the seven-year-old FTA between Costa Rica and CARICOM is aimed at increasing and diversifying trade in goods.
She explained that it also provides for negotiations on Competition Policy, Government Procurement, Double Taxation and Services, a legal framework which encourages transparency and deals with trade disputes.
Since the signing of the FTA in 2004, only Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana and Barbados have completed the ratification process. According to Ms. Gonzalez, since 2005, trade between T &T and Costa Rica has increased annually at 48 per cent.
Jamaica is the only remaining MDC in CARICOM that has not yet formally implemented the Agreement, but Dr. Baugh noted that, although it is not yet fully in force in Jamaica, it has been applied provisionally, following a 2006 Cabinet decision to approve its implementation. Jamaica is in the process of amending legislation to formally implement the Agreement.
Dr. Baugh, and Minister of State in the Foreign Ministry, the Hon Marlene Malahoo Forte, have emphasised that Jamaica is seeking to penetrate the Costa Rican market, and anticipates a more balanced trading relationship with the full implementation of the Agreement.
“We have to plan carefully, with some measure of protection for our sensitive domestic sectors, even while we co-operate,” Dr. Baugh said.
Ms. Gonzalez conceded that there was much room for growth in Costa Rica’s import of Jamaican goods.
With some US$ 52.8 million worth of imports in 2010, Jamaica is Costa Rica’s second most important market in the Caribbean. In contrast however, Jamaica only exported US$ 514,000 worth of goods to Costa Rica in 2010, including re-exports (value-added goods) totalling US$211,415.
JAMPRO and PROCOMER have agreed to cooperate to facilitate a business trade mission to Costa Rica in the near future. PROCOMER was invited to facilitate its private sector’s participation in an investment forum being organized by JAMPRO for April 2012.
By BALFORD HENRY, JIS Reporter & Editor