Saturday, July 29, 2006

Costa Rica makes free-trade pact priority

President Oscar Arias - Photo by REUTERS/Alberto LoweCosta Rica, Last Country Left to Ratify CAFTA, Makes Free Trade Pact a Priority

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica (AP) -- Costa Rica's government, the last country left to ratify the Central American Free Trade Agreement, included approval of the free trade accord in a list of 38 projects it sees as a priority.

The list was sent to lawmakers late Thursday by President Oscar Arias. Congress is expected to analyze the accord in August during a special session, and will likely approve the deal.

Congress failed to approve the CAFTA under former President Abel Pacheco, who had argued that lawmakers needed to pass a series of fiscal reforms before considering the accord. Unions have opposed the deal, saying it would hurt farmers and factory workers.

Arias' strong support for CAFTA nearly cost him his bid to return to the presidency. He argued in his campaign that the trade deal will help revitalize the country's stagnant economy. He was inaugurated in May.

The project list also included electoral and immigration reforms.

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