Costa Rica rejoins CAFTA

Costa Rica rejoins CAFTA

WASHINGTON -- Costa Rica has decided to participate in the Central America Free Trade Agreement, joining Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Honduras and the United States, the U.S. Trade Representative announced Sunday.

Costa Rica had stepped out of the negotiations before an agreement was reached between the other four Central American nations and the U.S. in mid-December. U.S. trade officials re-entered talks with Costa Rica last week, the USTR said.

"The United States and Costa Rica resolved outstanding issues in areas such as market access for agriculture, textiles and apparel, and professional services," USTR Robert B. Zoellick said in a prepared statement. "In addition, Costa Rica made specific commitments to gradually open its telecommunications market in three key areas -- private network services, Internet services, and wireless services -- and committed to establishing a regulatory framework to help foster effective market access."

U.S. exports to Costa Rica totaled $3.5 billion in 2003, according to the USTR. U.S. imports from Costa Rica were $3.4 billion. Costa Rica accounts for approximately one-third of U.S. trade with the five CAFTA countries.

The inclusion of Costa Rica heightened concerns by the U.S. Sugar Industry Group that the United States will be flooded with cheap sugar in a matter of years.

"This development only adds to the burden placed upon the American sugar industry, which faces an already oversupplied market," said Carolyn Cheney, chair of the U.S. Sugar Industry Group. "We fear further concessions on sugar imports as the Administration plans to link the Dominican Republic into CAFTA, and as it negotiates FTAs with 23 other sugar-exporting countries."