Associated Press | 18 November 2008
China, Costa Rica to launch trade talks
By MARIANELA JIMENEZ
SAN JOSE, Costa Rica (AP) - China and Costa Rica will launch free trade talks in January and hope to seal a deal by 2010, Chinese President Hu Jintao said Monday during his first visit to a Central American country.
Hu spent most of the day in Costa Rica with a delegation of 100 businessmen as part of China’s investment march into resource-rich Latin America, before heading to Cuba for a two-day visit aimed at strengthening ties with Havana.
China’s trade with Latin America has jumped from $10 billion in 2000 to $102.6 billion last year and it is now Costa Rica’s second most important trade partner.
Hu said Monday during a joint news conference with Costa Rican President Oscar Arias that free trade talks will start Jan. 19 and the countries hope to have an agreement before Arias leaves office in May 2010.
The two leaders said their nations also signed 11 cooperation agreements, including a joint venture for China’s National Petroleum Corporation to help modernize Costa Rica’s state-owned oil refinery. China also agreed to help Costa Rica build a national sports stadium.
"We would like to see an increase in Costa Rican imports and we invite Costa Rican companies to explore the Chinese market," Hu said.
While the rest of Central America still grants diplomatic recognition to Taiwan, Costa Rica switched to recognizing China in June 2007. China says Taiwan is part of its territory.
Costa Rica’s Foreign Trade Minister Marco Vinicio Ruiz said a free trade accord with China means "there will be many sectors that benefit, especially those tied to agricultural and meat products."
Costa Rica last year exported $848 million in goods to China.
The Chinese president then flew to Cuba late Monday and was met at the airport by Vice President Jose Ramon Machado Ventura and a throng of chanting Chinese citizens who clutched tiny Cuban and Chinese flags.
Cuba and China were expected to sign a serious of trade agreements during a visit "aimed at increasing friendship and cooperation between our two nations," Hu said in a statement.
China is Cuba’s second-largest trading partner behind Venezuela.