By Antonio Broto
BEIJING – China and Costa Rica on Thursday signed a free trade treaty that will give the two countries greater access for their products in each other’s markets and is of strategic importance in that it brings the Asian giant closer economically to Central America, a region where many of the governments are aligned with Taiwan, which Beijing views as a rebel province.
The accord was signed here by the commerce ministers of both nations, Marco Vinicio Ruiz and Chen Deming, and it is the third such agreement that China has inked with Latin America, after those signed with Chile in 2006 and Peru earlier this year.
“It’s important because it consolidates a commercial relationship that already existed and in which China is already Costa Rica’s second-largest trading partner,” Ruiz told Efe.
The treaty was signed less than three years after Costa Rica and China established diplomatic relations.
“Costa Rica took a step forward in seeking a relationship with the most emerging and dynamic economy in Asia,” emphasized Ruiz, who added that the current good relations between China and Taiwan, characterized by a “slow and constant” rapprochement, will ensure that the decades-long diplomatic conflict between the two nations “should not be a problem in the future.”
Of the 23 countries in the world that maintain diplomatic relations with Taiwan, 12 are located in Central America and the Caribbean.
“Any Chinese company that establishes itself in Costa Rica will have access to the common market (of Central America), and there are also many Central American firms in our country that can benefit from this accord, which will have an important impact in the region,” Ruiz said.
China’s deputy trade minister, Yi Xiaozhun, said the trade pact with Costa Rica is “a new milestone in bilateral relations, which will propel the relations not just in the areas of trade and investment.”
He also emphasized the importance that China accords to Costa Rica “as the first country in Central America to establish relations with China.”
Costa Rica, which had to sever diplomatic ties with Taiwan to establish links with Beijing, is one of the few countries that has a favorable trade balance with China, thanks mainly to its production of electronic components.
Ruiz said Costa Rica is seeking to diversify its exports to China, especially in the agricultural sector.
“We also aspire to ... greater Chinese investment in Costa Rica,” said the minister, recalling that in the investment area there has already been cooperation in the petroleum sector, including the joint construction of a refinery in the Central American nation, and in telecommunications.
Trade between China and Costa Rica totaled $3.18 billion last year, according to Chinese government figures. EFE