Costa Rica given more time to ratify free trade deal

Wednesday 01 October 2008, San José, Costa Rica

Costa Rica Given More Time To Ratify Free Trade Deal

October 1, today, was the deadline for Costa Rica to ratify and join the Central American Free-Trade Agreement with the United States (CAFTA). However, Costa Rica now has until January 1, 2009, to ratify the trade deal.

The United States, the Dominican Republic and Central American signatory countries have all agree to allow Costa Rica three more months to get its house in order.

The trade deal is known locally as the Tratado de Libre Comercio (TLC).

The announcement was made following the signature of Nicaraguan presidentn Daniel Ortega, who joined the trading partners in signing the extension, according to a press release by Casa Presidencial in San José.

Carlos Gutierrez, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Commerce, who is in Costa Rica leading a group of 10 US business representatives, met with Costa Rican president, Oscar Arias, yesterday, with the full support of US president, George W. Bush for Costa Rica’s entry to the trade deal.

"It’s hard to imagine CAFTA without Costa Rica", said Gutierrez at a press conference yesterday.

The trade deal required that Costa Rica pass 13 complimentary laws for the trade deal to take effect. Legislators passed all 13 bills, however, only 12 were approved, the last falling by the wayside when the Constitutional Court said it found constitutional errors and sent the bill back for redrafting.

Although the government did its best to get the redrafted bill approved before the October 1 deadline, opposition to the trade deal blocked all attempts for a fast passage.

This is the second time Costa Rica has had to ask for an extension. The TLC was signed in May 2004 by the governments of the United States, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala and the Dominican Republic. Costa Rica is the only signatory country that has not ratified the trade deal, while the others all have their respective deals in place.

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