Costa Rica Joins Free Trade Agreement

Friday, January 2, 2009

After years of political wrangling, Costa Rica is finally joining the free-trade agreement that eliminates most tariffs and quotas on goods traded between Central America and the United States.

As of Jan. 1, Costa Rica became the last signatory country to join the Dominican Republic–Central American Free Trade Agreement.

The pathway to the free-trade pact started in 2003 when negotiations were launched. Almost all the countries involved—Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Honduras, the Dominican Republic and the United States—signed the accord a year later. Costa Rica was the only holdout because of political bickering in that country’s legislature.

DR-CAFTA went into effect for El Salvador on March 1, 2006; for Honduras and Nicaragua on April 1, 2006; for Guatemala on July 1, 2006; and for the Dominican Republic on March 1, 2007.

When current Costa Rican President Oscar Arias took office in 2006, he pledged his country would become a member of the free-trade agreement.

On Nov. 11, Costa Rica’s lawmakers cleared the way for that country to join the accord, which commercially binds Central America to the United States. —Deborah Belgum