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Anonymous corporation may be thing of the past
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Overlooked by many in the crush of local news is the fact that Costa Rica is about to eliminate the anonymous from the corporate structure called a sociedad anónima or S.A.

The S.A. is a popular form of a corporation. Until now the shareholders of most corporations were not known unless they chose to divulge that fact.

Many foreigners own corporations here that do not have their name as the responsible party. A common practice has been to name a lawyer or someone with similar business background to be the president or holder of a power of attorney to handle day-to-day affairs.

Such a person representing a company does not have to own any shares in the entity. All the shares and the benefits derived from them can be held by one or many other parties.

Until now the only listing of shareholders has been on the private books of the corporation. Sometimes they would be disclosed. For example, for a firm to do business with the government, the names of major shareholders must be disclosed to avoid officials bidding on major contracts.

In addition, when a firm seeks to become listed as a small or medium enterprise, a designation that has some economic benefits, the names of shareholders must be disclosed.

Media companies in Costa Rica also must disclose the names of shareholders each year.

Not so the average firm. For that reason the S.A. could be used as a tax evading device. A U.S. citizen could send money to a Costa Rican S.A. without informing the tax authorities. Investigators would not be able to pierce the veil of the corporation.

A proposed law, No. 18.041, awaiting the

signature of President Laura Chinchilla Miranda requires corporations to disclose the names of their shareholders to the Registro Nacional. This is the same bill that authorizes officials to assess a tax when the shares of corporations are transferred. Until now such a transfer was tax-free. The bill would assess a sales tax on what is being called an indirect transfer. There are a few exceptions for certain types of transfers.

A.M. Costa Rica may be the only English-language news source to report this information. The bill gained final legislative approval Aug. 27, and this newspaper reported that fact in the edition the next day.

Some readers have expressed surprise at the scope of the measure and the fact that there has been no obvious objection to it by the business community.

Even though an anonymous corporation could be a good money laundering or tax evading device, there also are legitimate reasons for having such a corporate structure. Privacy and not alerting criminals to wealth are among the legitimate reason.

The Chinchilla administration has characterized the bill as one to tighten up tax collection and to attack fraud, so the president is likely to sign it.

Crooks take advantage of quake fears to raid homes
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

In the wake of a major earthquake, crooks are playing on fear to prey on the population.

The national emergency commission said Sunday that rumors and speculation are being generated to cause persons to flee their homes in vulnerable areas so that the crooks can raid the dwellings.

The Comisión Nacional de Prevención de Riesgos y Atención de Emergencias urged residents to accept information only from official sources.

The commission said that such burglaries have been reported in Liberia and Cóbano. The commission said that rumors have been circulated since Saturday of a new earthquake, tsunamis and similar. It noted that even earthquake experts cannot predict quakes.

Meanwhile the number of persons who are being housed by the government has been reduced to just  61. They are in Grecia, Sarchí and Naranjo.

The Ministerio de Educación Pública said that there was several millions of dollars damage to schools
and that more than 50 will have to be demolished or extensively reconstructed due to quake damage. Officials are trying to find locations where classes can be held temporarily. The bulk of the damaged schools are in the area most affected by Wednesday's 7.6 magnitude quake. 

That is in the Nicoya peninsula.

There have been more aftershocks. Most are in the 2 to 3 magnitude ranges, but one at 2:29 Saturday afternoon was 5.6. It was located near the Wednesday epicenters off Sámara in the Pacific Ocean.

A quake Sunday afternoon was felt in the Central Valley. It was 4.1, said the Observatorio Vulcanológico y Sismológico. The epicenter was in the Pacific south of the tip of the peninsula.

Work on highways, roads and damaged homes is being complicated by rain. Much of the country was supposed to get an inch or more of rain Sunday afternoon and evening. That follows some heavy rains Saturday. Shawn Maricle who has a private weather station in Tamarindo said that his area received 3.48 inches of rain Saturday night.

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Our readers' opinions

Local products priced higher
than similar imported food

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

For all those who reside in Costa Rica, both Ticos and foreigners, it’s a common remark heard: “Costa Rica has become so expensive.” On a recent trip to my local “Americamart” I got out my pen and noted some prices that confirmed a suspicion I’d had for quite some time, that many Costa Rican-made food products are much more expensive than comparable imported products. Here are six eye opening examples:

1. Imported Brunswick (Canada) Tuna,170 grams: 750 colons, versus domestic Sardimar Tuna, 160 grams: 1,370 colons.

2. Imported Eskimo (Nicaragua) 2% milk, one liter: 650 colons, versus domestic Dos Pinos 2% milk, one liter: 735 colons.

3. Imported Old Milwaukee (U.S.A.) can of beer: 500 colons, versus domestic Imperial can of beer: 620 colons.

4. Imported Magic Time (U.S.A.) Parmesan cheese, 85 grams: 1,190 colons, versus domestic Fontana parmesan cheese 85 grams – 1,506 colons.

5. Imported Ritz (U.S.A.) crackers, 130 grams, 355 colons, versus domestic Bokitas, 125 grams, 390 colons.

6. Imported Nestle (U.S.A.) 12 cheese slices,180 grams, 1,380, colons, versus domestic Dos Pinos 12 cheese slices, 142 grams,  1,465 colons.

See the trend here? The imported food products often give more product for less money than their domestic competitors. How can this possibly be that local food products are priced so much higher than imported ones? Are domestically made food products so far superior in quality? Are they taxed so much more? Are labor costs so much higher? Are shipping costs so much more? The simple answers are no, nope, not at all and no way.

Why are the imported products so much cheaper? I believe that thanks to “Americamart” and their aggressive international purchasing and logistics power and their strong footprint in Central America are really able to deliver good value to consumers and create a more competitive food marketplace in Costa Rica. So, bravo! “Americamart”.

Why are domestic food products so much more expensive? I speculate that as a result of protectionist policies that buffer certain sectors, like dairy and beer for example, that there is no incentive to create value for consumers. Domestic products therefore tend to be priced at or above the “international price” that factors in all of the shipping costs and import taxes, versus a fair “domestic price” that should reflect lower labor and shipping costs and no import taxes whatsoever. Basically, domestic food products are strategically priced at the very high end of what the local marketplace will bear to maximize profits and to serve as a barrier to import competition.

So, if you want to support domestic food companies that deliver inferior quality products at superior prices, then go ahead, buy local. But, If you want to support free market international competition that creates value for consumers, then buy the superior quality imported products at the lower prices when you can.
Alec Westery Lebrant

Flouride put in salt
to make us stupid and ill

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I was shopping in my local pulperia and needed some salt.  As I picked up the bag, I noticed something I never noticed before.  I knew iodine was added to salt, BUT fluoride too?  Fluoride is a toxin.  A dentist told me that San José does put fluoride in the water.  Fluoride is a slow kill mechanism to make us stupid and to promote health problems.  But why does a country that has socialized medicine put it in their water and now salt?  Fluoride is a toxic by-product of aluminum production.
Here are some informative links. HERE, HERE, HERE and HERE!  QUIT USING SALT
Steve Meno
Coronado de Osa

Find out what the papers
said today in Spanish

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Here is the section where you can scan short summaries from the Spanish-language press. If you want to know more, just click on a link and you will see and longer summary and have the opportunity to read the entire news story on the page of the Spanish-language newspaper but translated into English.

Translations may be a bit rough, but software is improving every day.

When you see the Summary in English of news stories not covered today by A.M. Costa Rica, you will have a chance to comment.

This is a new service of A.M. Costa Rica called Costa Rica Report. Editor is Daniel Woodall, and you can contact him
From the Costa Rican press
News items posted Monday through Friday by 8 a.m.
Click a story for the summary

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Third News Page
Radio Pacific Sur
San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Sept. 10, 2012, Vol. 12, No. 180
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Expat authors treat the history of writing and 2018 elections
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

One expat is completing a massive project that catalogues the written word from chunks of clay to the present.

A second has completed the third in a fictional series about Costa Rican politics.

And an expat who died in 1984 is the subject of a book that uses his diary during the time he lived here.

The expat with the massive project is Alfred Stites, a World
Alfred Stites
War II Army Air Corps pilot who operated a Washington D.C., gallery for years featuring rare books and manuscripts. Now he has compiled “History of the Written Word,” which contains replicas of original book leaves with explanatory texts using material from the Lilly Rare Book Library at Indiana University.

Stites said in an email that the book will be ready in three months. He has a varied career. According to his Web site, he was a consultant to non-profit entities in the performing arts for over two decades, specializing in and lecturing on fundraising, He also
was the consultant on a Ford Foundation performing arts project for Affiliate Artists, Inc., in New York, among many others, and he was also the director of performing arts venues the Bucks County Playhouse, the Walnut Street Theater, Philadelphia Pennsylvania, and Wolf Trap, Vienna, Virginias, the Web site says.

“. . . today there is no record  -- photography and text explanation - in one book of all of the different types of writings and languages that created communication over the past 5,000 years,” said Stites on another Web site. “Also, there has never been a 'Book of Leaf Books' printed with pictures from a cuneiform tablet, through Egyptian hieroglyphs on papyrus, early Greek and Roman literature, beautiful Book of Hours leaves, early printing since Gutenberg and so on, each with an explanatory text. This is what I want to do, and this project will be unique.”

He explained in a video that a leaf book is a folder that contains a leaf of an historical document and contemporary text
explaining what the document is. What he is publishing really is a giant collection of leaf books.

Stites said he knows that print soon will be obsolete and that students in the future will not have documents to hold in their hands. Instead, they will have electronic images because electronic books are easier to store and they do not age like books made with paper. So his book is designed to last at least 500 years to give future students and scholars an example of a book. He said there will be 165 photos of manuscripts and book leaves in his work.

The second author is Albert A. Correia, an expat who has
produced the third work in his Eden Trilogy. The latest is “A President for Eden,” and it is about a fictional 2018 presidential election here. He announced in July that the book soon would be published.

Like the previous two books, “A President of Eden” is electronic and available on this Web site. The book chronicles the hard-fought election as three candidates fight it out to the end, and then it is only decided by a shocking last-minute maneuver by  a determined
Eden book
 candidate, he said.

Author Dulcimer Nielsen, who wrote a book in 1979 with Ed James, announced via email that she has updated the work to include the last years of James in Costa Rica. The book is “Six-guns to Satellites,” which describes James as an authentic cowboy who spent most of his life in Oregon, as did Ms. Nielsen.

She said “Disgusted with modern life in the U.S.A., Ed moved to Costa Rica’s jungles in 1976 at the age of 81, seeking a simpler, saner lifestyle. He was well ahead of his time.” The book “is for a new generation of young people looking for meaning in life beyond shallow technology and materialism; and for those of us old enough to remember and wish we could return to old times with 'real friends,' blue skies and wild horses whistling from high desert ridges,” she added.

The book includes adventures and observations taken from a dairy that James kept in the three years he was in Costa Rica.
The book is available on Amazon. The original book was  “Hanging and Rattling.”

Lawyer finally out of jail targets unfair preventative detention
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A lawyer who is facing a complex criminal charge has begun a campaign against Costa Rica's practice of preventative detention. He says the way that type of imprisonment here is practiced violates the constitution and international norms.

The lawyer, Arcelio Hernández, said Sunday that he has filed a claim with the Interamerican Commission on Human Rights. He, himself, got out of jail Thursday night after nearly 11 months awaiting trial.

Hernández faces a charge of fraudulent administration relating to the handling of funds in a company he heads. The money was to be used by investors to purchase a Guanacaste hotel in 2010. Trial is set for Sept. 17, although the date may be changed, Hernández said.

In a telephone interview he stressed that the case relates to business practices and not to his work as a lawyer. He said he still is licensed and current with the Colegio de Abogados.

His complaint about pretrial detention is something of interest to foreign expats who frequently are jailed for fear they will flee the country despite the years they may have spent in Costa Rica.

Hernández maintains his innocence, but his case against pretrial detention does not hinge on the specifics of the criminal case.

The lawyer said that Costa Rica is not observing the presumption of innocence required by the Constitution when it puts suspects in prison indiscriminately. He also said that he was waiting since May 25 for his trial. That is a violation of the Constitution, too, which requires a speedy trial.  “justicia pronta y cumplida,” he said in an email. A judge in Puntarenas, Guillermo Hernández, agreed and issued the order that freed the lawyer.
In addition, the lawyer cites a 2009 Interamerican Court of Human Rights decision against the government of Uruguay that is similar to his situation. In that case, the commission requested the release of two men and said that the country should reform its pretrial system.

Hernandez, who is arguing his criminal case himself, carried his claim of excessive imprisonment to the Sala IV constitutional court earlier this year. But only one magistrate agreed with him. He notes that the time he has been in jail is close to the minimum sentence for the crime with which he is charged.

The lawyer also said that the pretrial terms interfere with the objectivity of trial courts when they find a suspect guilty and give a sentence. Hernández said the trial court is likely to try to justify the time the suspect was in pretrial detention in issuing the final sentence.

The judiciary might have jailed Hernández because he went to Europe as his accusers were making their complaint. He said he, his wife and 5-year-old son spent time in Spain because they were concerned about threats that had been made against him.

He emphasized that he returned voluntarily and that there were no warrants out for him when he left.

The lawyer also was the subject of an incorrect news story in El Diario Extra. The newspaper called him the Spanish equivalent of a fake lawyer when he returned from Spain and was arrested. An A.M. Costa Rica news story about the same time tried to set the record straight because Hernández has done legal work for the newspaper's parent corporation and he was known to editors as a full member of the Colegio de Abogados.

He also has advertised in the newspaper and has written articles about legal issues, including some from his jail cell.

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Fish Fabulous Costa Rica

A.M. Costa Rica's Fourth News page
San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Sept. 10, 2012, Vol. 12, No. 180
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Nation has sought trade ties aggressively in last five years
By Aaron Knapp
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rica has been stepping up its efforts to increase its trading partners, especially in Asia and South America, throughout the world during the past five years.

Five years ago, Costa Rica shrugged off Taiwan, a trade partner of nearly 60 years, in order to begin relations with the People's Republic of China. Additionally, it has recently entered into negotiations with Colombia and Perú without its normal Central American partners.

President Laura Chinchilla has announced that Costa Rica and South Korea will negotiate its own free trade agreement

Here's what's going on now:

Treaties in negotiation:

Canada's flag

Although Costa Rica and Canada have had a free trade agreement on books since 2002, the two countries are in the final stages of renegotiating the treaty to modernize it, update its rules and incorporate new technology.

The new treaty is currently in its final round of negotiations. The process began in November last year and seems to be moving faster than the original agreement, which took about three years to go into effect. However, even after negotiations have concluded, there will still be more details to settle, and the new treaty must be approved by both legislatures.

According to information from the Ministerio de Comercio Exterior, Costa Rica exported $83 million worth of products to Canada in 2010 under the existing treaty, mostly in the form of electronic equipment, tires, coffee, pineapple and cotton undergarments. Conversely, Canada exported to here $115 million worth of wheat, frozen cut potatoes, paper, cars, fertilizer, prescription drugs and plastic.

Colombia flag


The free trade agreement being negotiated between Costa Rica and Colombia has been one of the more recent and controversial trade treaties proposed by the Chinchilla administration.

Although a bilateral agreement has existed between the two countries since 2002, many manufacturers in Costa Rica are concerned that the competitive advantage will rest with their Colombian counterparts who may access cheaper raw materials and pay lower wages. Conversely, farmers are concerned that Colombian raw materials and crops will flood the Costa Rican market.

Announced in June, the two countries quickly began the first round of negotiations. The next round is scheduled to take place late this month. The ministry of foreign trade will hold forums for representatives of industries to air concerns and comments.

Trade between the two countries has grown dramatically over the past decade, to $503.9 million in 2010, but again, this is mostly in the form of imports to Costa Rica. That year Colombia exported $455.7 million of primarily oils, from petroleum and other sources, as well as medicine, fertilizer and fungicides. Costa Rica exported processed food, prosthetic equipment, lead, vodka, medicine, paper, plastic, seeds, fruit and tires.

European Association

This free trade agreement is a relatively unique treaty in that it encompasses two blocs: a group of Central American countries (Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras and Panamá) and a group of European countries (Norway, Iceland, Switzerland and Liechtenstein), none of whom are part of the European Union.

The two blocs began negotiating the treaty earlier this year. During the third round, which was in Costa Rica last month, Guatemala joined the negotiations. The next round will take place in Geneva, Switzerland, in late October.

In 2010, the value of trade between Costa Rica and all four of these nations was about $144.5 million in products, Switzerland being the largest partner. However, the lion's share of these products was imported to Costa Rica, $141.8 mostly in medicine, medical equipment and coins. That same year, Costa Rica exported $2.7 million worth of products consisting of metal (mostly steel and other metallic scrap), cigars, unroasted coffee, computer parts and machinery parts.

Treaties pending legislative approval:


Like many of Costa Rica's treaties with the rest of the world, the country shares this agreement with its Central American neighbors, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Nicaragua. This treaty, which was completed last November and sent to all governments for approval, simply updated and merges treaties that México already had in place with Costa Rica and the other countries.

The legislative assembly received the treaty in February, and, as procedure dictates, it was almost immediately passed off to the committee of foreign relations and trade. That committee unanimously approved the agreement last month, and the treaty is currently heading back to the full assembly.

In 2011, Costa Rica exported $318.6 million in products to Mexico, consisting primarily of palm oil, processed food, small manufactured items like plugs and gaskets, tires and packaging materials. Mexico exported $1.1 billion worth of products in the form of electronics, medicines, cars, paper, plastic and home appliances. Additionally, $182 million in investments flowed from México to Costa Rica last year, making it the third largest source of investments in Costa Rica.

Peru flag


This is a free trade agreement that has been completed under the Chinchilla administration. This treaty set the framework for free-trade negotiations with Colombia. As with Colombia, trade between Costa Rica and Perú has been growing for decades, although again the majority is imported. The trade ministry staff sees room for continued growth as Perú has a population that is six times larger than that of Costa Rica.

The agreement was completed in May of 2011 and was presented to the legislative assembly less than a month later. In April, the foreign relations and trade committee recommended that the agreement be approved and sent it back to the full assembly, where it has been since awaiting approval.

In 2011, Costa Rica exported $15.8 million worth of products to Perú, consisting primarily of medicine, tires and other rubber products, plugs and other plastic products, packaging materials and medical instruments like syringes. Perú exported to here freighters, paper, plastic, unroasted coffee, avocados, safety fuses and other products totaling $50.8 million in value.


Costa Rica's free trade agreement with Singapore is part of Costa Rica's efforts to establish more trading partners in Asia over the past five years. Although trade has not grown substantially between the two countries over the past decade, the ministry sees potential given that both countries are fairly small (Singapore is actually a city-state), have similar-sized populations, and Singapore has the third highest gross domestic product per capita in the world.

Negotiations on the agreement concluded early in 2010, and it was introduced to the legislative assembly that February. According to the assembly’s Web site, the treaty went to the foreign relations and trade committee which recommended that the full assembly approve it, but no actions have been taken with regard to the treaty since it was reintroduced to the full assembly last September.

In 2010, the value of Costa Rica’s exports to Singapore amounted to $43.9 million in the form of a wide assortment of computer and electrical equipment parts, timber and coffee. Singapore’s exports to Costa Rica amounted to $31.2 million that year, and included plastics, ether-alcohol, medicine as well as machine and electrical equipment parts.

Treaties under review:

European Union – Central American Association Agreement

As with the European Free Trade Association, this is a treaty between two blocs, all of the countries in the European Union and Central American countries. According to the trade ministry information, the European Union is one Costa Rica’s most important trade partners given the value of goods flowing between the two with or without the treaty. Additionally the European Union contributed 12 percent of Costa Rica’s direct foreign investment, with Spain being the leader of those countries.

While the European Union already has policies in place that basically allow for free trade of some goods with Central
America, this treaty is meant to simplify and consolidate the process.

Negotiations between the two blocs concluded May, 2010, but the treaty has since been under review by the 27 European countries and seven Central American countries that must approve it before it goes into effect.

Costa Rica exported $1.7 billion worth of products to the European Union in 2010, mostly in the form of fruit like pineapples and bananas, computer and electrical equipment parts, coffee, palm oil, steel wire, beef, filters, pencils and others. Countries of the European Union exported $1.1 billion worth of products, mainly medicine, parts for motors and generators, and oils based on petroleum and other sources.

Treaties in effect:

Central America

At least five countries in Central America have been unified under an economic integration treaty since the 1960s. The agreement has had many names since then, including the Central American Common Market, the Central American Economic Integration Treaty Protocol and the Central American Integration System. In general the idea has been to establish a uniform trade policy with the rest of the world by which members would abide in order to jointly improve their collective economies and the quality of life of their people.

The agreement was originally established in the 1960s between Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Honduras and Costa Rica, and again, Costa Rica was the last member to approve the treaty. According to the ministry, trade continued to grow between the members during the following decades despite political and economic turmoil, particularly in the 1980s, but the region reestablished integration agreements in the 1990s that also came to include Panamá.

Although the ministry does not track trade between Costa Rica and its Central American counterparts in this agreement on its Web site.

cafta flags

United States

Better known as the Dominican Republic — Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR), this agreement includes Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Honduras, Guatemala, Nicaragua, El Salvador and the United States. This treaty is arguably the most important for Costa Rica, because the United States is Costa Rica’s largest trading partner. Trade between the two countries had a net value of nearly $12 billion last year, according to ministry data.

While the other countries in the treaty had approved it and put it into effect between 2005 and 2007, Costa Rica was the last country to approve the document, and did not do so until January 2009. Costa Rica was also the only country to have put the controversial treaty to a referendum in which it was barely approved, with 51.6 percent of the voting populace in favor.

In 2011, Costa Rica exported $4 billion worth of products to the United States, largely in the form of electronic parts, equipment and accessories, medical supplies and appliances like syringes, pineapples, bananas and coffee. Conversely, the United States exported $7.8 billion worth of electronic parts and gadgets, oil products, corn, soybeans, paper and other products. In addition, almost $1.5 billion of direct foreign investment came from the United States last year, which is about 61 percent of investments of this kind that Costa Rica receives globally.

Caribbean Community (CARICOM)

This treaty is unique for Costa Rica in that it individually has an agreement with a regional bloc of nations, while Costa Rica is usually grouped with other Central American countries for free trade treaties. This treaty includes the Caribbean nations of Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago. Costa Rica has individual agreements with some of these countries, but for others it unilaterally allows their products to be imported duty-free.

This treaty went into effect in November, 2005, more than three years after negotiations began on the treaty. Other nations, including Guyana and Barbados in 2006 and Belize in 2011, joined the treaty afterwards 

Costa Rica exported $156.9 million worth of products to the members of CARICOM in 2011, in the form of products that include medicine and medical supplies, processed food, bottles, jars, closures like lids, vegetables, fruits, cooking appliances and paper products. Caribbean countries exported $120.7 million worth of products that primarily consisted of iron and steel products and crude oil.


This treaty is again a negotiation between a faraway country and the usual five Central American states (Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala and Nicaragua). Although exports from Costa Rica to Chile have been growing, the value of Chile’s imports to Costa Rica is nearly 11 times the value of Costa Rica’s exports there.

For Costa Rica, this treaty began the legislative process in January, 2001, and was put into effect in February, 2002. Although no actions have been taken yet, the ministry’s Web site says that some of the countries involved with this treaty are discussing revising it.

Last year, Costa Rica exported $24 million worth of products such as processed foods, tires, pasta, tampons, sanitary supplies for babies such as diapers, aluminum and fruit. Chile exported $258 million worth of copper wire, lumber, paper, wine, apples, milk products, tanks, barrels and aluminum.

china flag


In just over a year, China has become one of Costa Rica’s most lucrative trading partners with about $1.5 billion flowing between the two countries per year, even though the majority of that is coming from China. This treaty is particularly important because Costa Rica had to sever ties with its long-time partner Taiwan in order to enter negotiations with China. China and Taiwan have been bitter rivals since the losing side of their civil war escaped to Taiwan in 1949, and China still rejects diplomatic ties with countries that recognize Taiwan.

Although Costa Rica and China had been trading since the 1990s, the two countries officially forged diplomatic ties in 2007 and quickly began negotiating a free trade agreement. They completed negotiations in February 2010, and the treaty moved relatively quickly through Costa Rica’s government and was approved in August, 2011.

Costa Rica exported $199.7 million worth of products last year in the form of electrical and computer gadgets and parts, fruit, timber, scrap copper and aluminum, leather and other products. At the same time, China exported nearly $1.3 billion worth of goods to Costa Rica, which primarily consisted of cellular phones and computers whole and in parts, toys, routers, footwear and beans.

Panama flag


Because of Costa Rica’s close proximity and their complimentary economies, the ministry said on its Web site that it sees Panamá as a natural trading partner. The ministry also says that the partnership with Panama is particularly good for small and medium-sized Costa Rican businesses to export their products.

Also fairly new, the treaty was approved in November 2008, and includes an annexed program that went into law the following January that is meant to reduce tariffs between the two countries.

In 2010, Costa Rica exported $442.9 million worth of medicine and medical supplies, processed food, electrical conductors, paper hygiene products, disinfectants, fertilizers, insecticide, iron and steel, additives for cement, bananas, plantains and other products. Conversely, Panama exported  $233.5 million in medicine, aluminum containers, computer and electrical parts, yellow fin tuna, cheese, combustible fuel, chemical contraceptives and other goods.

Dominican Republic

Independent of its other treaties that include the two nations or regions, Costa Rica has had its own free trade agreement with the Dominican Republic for just over a decade. Although Costa Rica trades with the majority of the Caribbean under CARICOM, the ministry says on its Web site that the Dominican Republic is one of Costa Rica’s most important trading partners in the region and this treaty was in effect well before those with other Caribbean nations.

Although this treaty began the legislative process in the summer of 1999, it was not put into effect until March, 2002. Trade between the countries has continued to grow and the Dominican Republic is a common destination for goods in the Caribbean.

Costa Rica exported $221.2 million worth of products to the Dominican Republic in 2010 which principally comprised of tampons, medicine and medical supplies, home appliances, glass containers, electrical conductors, processed food and numerous other products. The Dominican Republic exported $26.8 million in products including iron and steel in various forms, liquefied natural gas, crude palm oil, alkyd resins and PVC pipes.

In addition to these free trade agreements, Costa Rica also has bilateral investment agreements with 13 other countries. With some it also has free trade agreements. According to the ministry’s Web site, these countries are: Argentina, Canada, Chile, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Korea, the Netherlands, Paraguay, Spain, Switzerland, Taiwan and Venezuela

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Coast Rica improves ranking
in global competitiveness

By Kayla Pearson
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The most recent Global Competitiveness Report ranks Costa Rica number 57 out of 144 countries. 

This position places the country second in Central America after Panamá which ranked 40.  Guatemala followed at 83, Honduras at 90, El Salvador at 101 and finally Nicaragua at 108.

Costa Rica rose four places from last year.  The report cites a lower budget deficit, a decrease in government debt, well-functioning public institutions and an increase in information and communication technology as reasons for the better position.

However, according to the World Economic Forum, the government spends wastefully, politicians are untrustworthy, infrastructure is poor, business startup procedures are too lengthy and there is little availability of business financing. 

Jaime Molina, the Unión Costarricense de Cámaras y Asociaciones del Sector Empresarial Privado president, notes that the country has improved worldwide from position 66 to 57 in the index, but called for a law of contingency power that would allow more private  renewable energy and would avoid the use of the backup heat for discussion and adoption.

The union of chambers has pointed out that it is urgent to work and provide long-term solutions to promote the development of energy, infrastructure, security and reduce excessive formalities.

Also, the group is working with public officials to eliminate unnecessary procedures and shorten the time taken to analyze the procedures for the approval of credits.

In regards to gaining the population's respect, the union pointed out that it is imperative to define rules and establish clear and concise controls, in order to promote a favorable climate for investment and employment generation.

Molina praised the work of entrepreneurs who are working to develop the country.  Their success is proven by the several indicators measured by the economic forum that show progress, notably those relating to innovation and the use of new technologies, he said.

The United States fell two positions to seventh.  The decline was linked to what the report called unaddressed weaknesses such as a distrust in politicians, lack of confidence in the governments ability to not interfere in private sectors, and wasteful spending by the government.  Also, the United States macroeconomy is unstable, according to the index.

On the other hand, U.S. companies are still considered to be highly sophisticated and innovative, labor markets are flexible and the scale opportunities afforded by the size of the domestic economy which is the largest in the world make the country still competitive, the report said.  

Switzerland continues to hold first place scoring hight marks in all categories due to the countries strengths in innovation, efficiency in the labor market, and the sophistication of its business section. Switzerland’s scientific research institutions are also regarded as among the world’s best.

It is followed by Singapore, Finland, Sweden and the Netherlands to finish the top five.

Despite the many positives of each country, the overall world economy is weak. Global growth remains historically low for the second year in a row and is expected to slow even more in the upcoming year. Still, emerging and developing countries continue to grow faster than advanced economies, steadily closing the income gap, said the World Economic Forum.

Two-day event will promote
innovation to firms here

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Cámara de Exportadores de Costa Rica will host its second annual congress of business innovation, a two-day seminar to teach small and medium-sized businesses how to update their methods Tuesday and Wednesday.

The congress will especially appeal to exporters and prospective exporters in the fields of agricultural business, services and technology, according to a press release from the chamber.

The Ministerio de Ciencia y Tecnología is a co-host of the event, and Banco Nacional is the principal sponsor of the congress.

In the press release, Monica Signini, president of the chamber, urged small and medium-sized business owners who are struggling in the international market or afraid to export to see innovation as a form of investment that will allow them to survive.

The first day of the congress will look at the challenges of innovation for exporters in Costa Rica, show how the process can begin socially and highlight specific success stories. The second day will get into more specifics, proposing alternate business models and strategies and conclude with a look at the future.  These discussions will be led by dozens of experts from the public and private sectors.

The congress will begin at 8 a.m. Tuesday, Sept 11, and it will run the next day at the same time until 6 p.m. Both days will take place at the Hotel Real Intercontinental in Escazú. The full congress costs $50 for members of the chamber and $100 for non-members.
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Workers at children's agency
march to protest funding

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Patronato Nacional de Infancia led a march of approximately 200 persons Friday to protest that the Ministerio de Hacienda and the executive branch of the government for not providing adequate funding to improve the lives of poor children. The march coincided with the last working day before the Día del Niño.

Children’s day was Sunday.  The protesters marched to the Corte Suprema building to deliver appeals against the Chinchilla administration and the ministry. They claim that both parts of the government are not providing as much money for helping poor children as they are legally obligated to do so.

The protesters also delivered a complaint against the Sala IV constitutional court for not resolving the legal issue fast enough.

“The government is not giving sufficient money to attend to the poorest children,” said Gilberto Pereira of the Patronato. “They don’t have money because the government won’t comply with the law.”

The Patronato is a government organization charged with providing aid and assistance to the country’s children.

According to a press release written after the event, a law obligates the government to give 7 percent of its tax revenue to the patronage. The press release also states that the patronage only receives 1 percent of tax revenue.

In three years, the government has cut 120 billion from the PANI institution, said Milton Gutiérrez, a lawyer at the Patronato.

The agency, known as PANI has been pursuing the matter in court since July, 2011, and Rodolfo Lopez Meneses, vice president of the Asociación de Abogados de PANI, filed this appeal partially against the court for not addressing the issue fast enough.

“There is not willingness to create programs to care for the children,” said Gutiérrez.

In the press release, members of the agency said that they cannot do the job of properly caring for poor children at the rate they are currently funded. The release said that the organization has 43 lawyers to deal with 40,000 legal cases and 243 psychology professionals to deal with 34,000 children who need counseling in some form.

The press release also said that members of the organization could only assist two-thirds of the 13,320 at-risk children last year, according to the organization’s annual progress report, and the organization was only able to add three locations in the past six years to deal with these issues. It currently has 783 locations.

The protest started at the Patronato's offices in Barrio Luján. Marchers went to the court building to deliver the appeals and then ended the march at the Asamblea Legislativa’s building on Avenida Central.

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