China’s chief trade negotiator entered into a third round of negotiations with his Costa Rican counterpart on Monday to establish a bilateral free-trade agreement. This latest round occurs only 7 months after Chinese President Hu Jintao announced the start of free-trade talks on a visit to San José in November 2008. Both countries say they hope to complete the agreement this year.
A free-trade accord between Costa Rica and China, which only established diplomatic ties in 2007, would be China’s third such agreement in Latin America. An agreement was ratified with Chile in 2005 and negotiations were concluded with Peru in 2008. China is especially interested in expanding ties with Latin American commodity exporters, an area that has seen two-way trade exceed $120 billion dollars per year.
Reports indicate that Beijing is offering to open its economy to 94.4 percent of Costa Rican products, with the notable exclusion of top exports like sugar and coffee. The Costa Ricans have held firm against liberalizing imports of textiles and machinery, a top Chinese concern. Both parties have affirmed their commitment to making progress in the negotiations, which are schedule to conclude on Wednesday.