Monday, June 15, 2009

China, Costa Rica in third round of trade talks

(photo: AFP FILE)San Jose (AFP) - China pressed Costa Rica on Monday for a wider opening of its market in a third round of talks towards a free trade treaty which negotiators aim to complete this year, officials said.

Costa Rica -which gave up six decades of ties with Taiwan in favor of China two years ago- is the third Latin American country to negotiate a free trade deal with China after Chile and Peru.

Costa Rica's chief negotiator, Fernando Ocampo, said the government had consulted with companies to prepare an improved offer for China.

"We have entered the phase of discussing sensitive issues across the board," Ocampo said.

Zhu Hong, the head of the Chinese delegation, told reporters that China is urging Costa Rica to return to an earlier offer, which includes 70% of Chinese products entering the country tax-free over a five to 10-year period.

China, in turn, is offering a tax-free opening for 94.5% of Costa Rican products, excluding sugar, meat and coffee.

Trade between the two countries has grown rapidly, from $91.1 million in 2000 to $1.6 billion in 2007, according to the Costa Rican government figures.

A major exporter of computer components, Costa Rica has dismissed fears of an invasion of Chinese products into the country as it seeks to diversify ties amid worldwide financial woes.

After the current round of talks, Costa Rican and Chinese negotiators are scheduled to hold three more rounds in September, October, and either November or December.

"We just celebrated the second anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations. Since then we've advanced a lot in all areas," Wan Xiaoyuan, the Chinese ambassador to San Jose, said at the opening of the three-day talks.

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