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Amendments to CAFTA trade deal passed

Guanacaste Journal | 8 July 2008

Amendments to CAFTA trade deal passed

(Infocom) - The long and arduous road toward final approval by Costa Rica of the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) with the United States, has suffered yet another delay.

This time, Congress’ Commission on International Relations and Foreign Trade went back to reviewing Bill 17.010, which deals with the approval of several amendments to the trade deal and the passing of a protocol by which guidelines related to the textile activity are added to the free trade agreement between Costa Rica and Mexico (a separate deal that was passed in December 1994).

The above-mentioned bill had been sent back to the commission via a resolution issued by the president of the Legislative Assembly, Francisco Antonio Pacheco.

According to this resolution, the reason for needing to read the bill again was due to an error, as one of two very similar motions had been rejected without being voted on. Both motions dealt with asking Tomas Dueñas, Costa Rican Ambassador to the United States, to appear for an audience. As this bill had not reached the full floor of the Legislature, it was sent back to commission to correct the mistake.

As a result, an order was issued to request that Dueñas appear before Congress to speak about article 22.5 of the free trade agreement.

Despite the delays in approval of CAFTA and its set of complementary, or “implementation” bills, by the Legislative Assembly, Presidency Vice Minister Roberto Thompson said the process is moving forward “successfully.”

Thomas reminded the public that following years of unfruitful debate about the proposed trade deal with the United States, the current administration called for a referendum (last October) so that citizens could decide the fate of CAFTA, and that once Costa Ricans gave their support to the deal, the Executive Branch focused its efforts on reaching the necessary accords to make “the public will be respected” and move ahead with passing the set of bills that will allow CAFTA to be finally implemented and ratified - within the timeline that the country pledged to respect.

Costa Rica is the only signatory of CAFTA that has not yet fully ratified the trade deal, which also includes Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic.

“The process of dialogue, of trying to reach agreements and open negotiation with 38 legislators from different parties that support CAFTA has been and continues to be an enormous, intense job, but which has translated into extraordinary progress. Truly, I would venture to say it has been a successful process,” Thompson claimed.

“The fact that in eight months we have managed to advance with the approval of almost all of the initiatives that are part of the implementation agenda, managing even to pass bills on issues of opening the telecommunications and insurance markets, is a great step, the result, I reiterate, of a joint effort of the Executive and a majority of legislators, even some who didn’t support the free trade agreement, who on this issue have worked so that Costa Rica can finally turn this page,” Thompson added.

The Presidency Vice Minister finished by saying that the country is getting very close to reaching a goal that “we must attain in order to respect the Costa Rican people and their democratic decision to support CAFTA.”

“I believe it would be a shame that those of us who pledge to be the keepers of the will of the majority, at this point in time, would fall in the game those who are pessimistic and don’t want the country to advance wish to drag us into,” Thompson concluded.

 source: Guanacaste Journal