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Costa Rica Ratifies CAFTA-DR

By a slim majority, voters in Costa Rica have ratified the Central America-Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR). The vote followed contentious debates over the pact’s purported benefits. 

Costa Rica is the last nation to ratify the agreement. Initially passing by a very slim margin in the US Congress in 2005, it was ratified in 2006 by El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua; and early this year by the Dominican Republic.

CAFTA-DR’s package of 13 laws includes bills that open Central American markets — among them Costa Rica’s state telecommunications and insurance monopolies, and domestic service and agricultural sectors — to foreign competition. Opponents of the pact fear this market liberalization will bring a flood of cheap US farm imports, potentially putting rural farmers out of work. As part of the agreement, the United States has promised increased market access for some Central American sectors, including textiles.

 “We are pleased that Costa Rica will be joining the other CAFTA-DR countries in reaping the benefits of greater regional economic integration and market opportunities that the CAFTA-DR provides,” said United States Trade Representative Susan C. Schwab. “We look forward to working with the Government of Costa Rica as it completes the necessary steps to implement the agreement, so that the CAFTA-DR can enter into force for Costa Rica as soon as possible.”< /font>

November/December 2007