Inside Costa Rica
Go Ahead Given For Approval Of Remaining TLC Bill
31 October 2008
The Sala Constitucional (Constitutional Court) resolved in record time the appeal by legislative members of the Partido Acción Ciudadana (PAC) and Frente Amplio parties on the constitutionality of the Intellectual Property bill, the last of the "complimentary" laws that is required to be passed by the Legislative Assembly to ratify the Tratado de Libre Comercio (TLC) - free trade agreement with the United States.
The court took only ten days to resolve the matter, leaving plenty of time for legislators to now discuss the bill and approve it before the December 31, 2008 deadline or be left out the trade agreement.
Costa Rica is the only signatory country in the trade deal between the United States, Nicarauga, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and the Dominican Republic, not have ratified the deal, which it had until March 31, 2008.
Costa Rica is also the only country to have had to ask for an extension, not once but to times. The first extension came and went on September 30, at which time Costa Rican had to plead with its future trade partners for more time.
Seven magistrates of the Sala Constitucional said they found no constitutional issues with the bill, as argued by the opponents of the TLC, who said that the Legislature used a faulty mechanism to correct the problems of the bill ordered by an earlier Court decision.
On September 11, the magistrates of Sala Constitucional said that the bill had to be first consult with the indigenous population of Costa Rica and be published once again in the official government publication, La Gaceta, before it can be voted on by legislators.
The Comisión de Consultas de Constitucionalidad del Congreso decided, however, to eliminate the clause regarding the Indigenous consultation, causing the PAC party to file a write of habeas corpus based on the action is unconstitutional.
Normally a Sala Constitucional decision on matters as complex as this does not come earlier than 30 days.
"We are surprised at haste the Court resolved our appeal, taking only 10 days to vote against our arguments, which were quite solid. There seems to have been a lot of pressure put on the judges to resolved this issue quickly", said Francisco Mlina, head of the PAC legislative members.
For his part, Luis Antonio Barrantes, head of the Movimiento Libertario party members, said that his party’s support for the TLC does mean an agreement with the mechanism used the commission to correct the faults of the bill.
The head of the Liberación Nacional party members, Óscar Núñez, said this puts an end to the long wait to get the TLC approved. Núñez added that the court decision now paves the way for the trade deal that has long been coming.
Opponents to the trade deal have come under pressure for their stall tactics and for not bowing down to the "will of the people" when a majority of Costa Ricans voted in favour of the trade deal in the country’s first ever public referendum last November.