U.S. Statement at the Trade Policy Review of Costa Rica

WTO Trade Policy Review of Costa Rica
U.S. Statement delivered by Ambassador Dennis C. Shea

Geneva, September 18, 2019

Thank you, Chair.

The United States is pleased to welcome Vice Minister Duayner Salas, Ambassador Gloria Abraham, and the other members of the Costa Rican delegation to the fourth Trade Policy Review of Costa Rica.  We would also like to express our appreciation to Ambassador Anzén in his role as Discussant, and to the WTO Secretariat and the Government of Costa Rica for the reports provided in advance of this meeting.

In the last five years, we have observed that the Costa Rican economy experienced positive economic growth, with an average 3.5 percent GDP rate of growth as noted in the Secretariat’s report.  This economic growth reflects several steps that the Government of Costa Rica has taken to further integrate its economy into the global trading system.  The Secretariat, in its report, points to accomplishments in such areas as increase in internal demand, net exports of goods and services, and the good performance of service exports.

We commend Costa Rica for the importance it has placed on trade liberalization and integration into the global economy as a means to economic growth.  The United States and Costa Rica are partners under the Dominican Republic-Central America-United States Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR).  This comprehensive free trade agreement covers trade in goods and services, intellectual property rights, investment, telecommunications, labor, and environment, and it promotes economic integration within Central America and with the Dominican Republic.  In addition to Costa Rica’s entry into force of the CAFTA-DR in 2009, Costa Rica has continued to expand its liberalization and has undertaken a number of reforms that also benefited Costa Rica’s trading partners more broadly. Since its previous review, Costa Rica has adopted significant trade facilitation measures, in addition to substantive legislative and regulatory measures to comply with its FTA commitments, which we believe contributed widely to the international trading system and to the expansion of global trade, while also helping to protect and preserve the environment.

As Costa Rica’s principal trading partner, the United States’ commercial relationship with Costa Rica is strong, positive, and growing.  Our total two-way goods trade during 2018 was $11.2 billion.  U.S. goods exports to Costa Rica in 2018 were $6.3 billion, and U.S. goods imports from Costa Rica totaled $4.9 billion.  U.S. exports of goods and services to Costa Rica supported an estimated 37,000 jobs in 2015. Costa Rica is currently the United States’ 45thlargest goods trading partner.

As noted in the Secretariat’s and Costa Rica’s reports, Costa Rica modified a number of laws and regulations in order to implement the CAFTA-DR and other international trade commitments, including technical barriers to trade.  We are also pleased to recognize the details in the Secretariat’s reporting on the various trade facilitation measures adopted  by Costa Rica and Costa Rica’s entry into the WTO’s Trade Facilitation Agreement during this period.  We recognize Costa Rica’s recent ongoing efforts to strengthen IP enforcement, such as the issuance of decrees to address piracy issues and the streamlining of the tasks of the IP offices in general. We encourage continued work on ensuring that government agencies use only licensed software. We look forward to updates from Costa Rica in this respect.

While these changes are important and noteworthy actions, they are not sufficient alone.  It is also important to provide regulatory transparency to facilitate investment and market access, as well as to ensure effective enforcement to protect traders’ rights and benefits under those laws.  We therefore encourage Costa Rica to increase its efforts towards regulatory transparency and effective enforcement and ensure that such efforts are followed-through on the ground.

Costa Rica has taken significant steps in improving its economic competitiveness since its last Trade Policy Review.  In order to further improve its competitiveness in an increasingly globalized economy, we urge Costa Rica to continue strengthening its policies and practices regarding standards and safety, to avoid impeding global trade in such products as food, pharmaceuticals, agricultural goods, and chemicals and cosmetics. We hope to hear more in this review about Costa Rica’s plans to address these types of issues.

Costa Rica has continued to take steps to solidify its presence in the global economy by fostering dynamic, inclusive and sustainable economic growth. As part of those efforts, Costa Rica has notably taken measures to foster the creation and growth of innovative MSMEs in addition to diversifying its exportable supply, promoting a greater role for women and gender equality in the export sector. The United States recognizes the notable achievements Costa Rica has made in the last half decade, and is optimistic for further growth to come.

We have submitted a substantial list of questions about specific issues in Costa Rica’s trade regime.  We look forward to reviewing Costa Rica’s responses.

The United States looks forward to further deepening our trade and economic partnership with Costa Rica. As a founding Member of the WTO, we commend Costa Rica on its active participation in the organization and for its longstanding commitment to the international trading system.  We remain committed to continued close cooperation with Costa Rica to deepen our relationship bilaterally, in regional fora, and in the WTO.

Thank you.