Lawmakers give final OK to free trade treaty with China

The Asamblea Legislative approved on final vote Tuesday a free trade treaty with the People’s Republic of China. Only 13 of the 45 lawmakers present voted against the treaty.

The agreement, which may go into effect as soon as July 1, permits 99.6 percent of Costa Rican exports to enter the giant Asian economy free of import duties, said the Ministerio de Comercio Exterior.

The vote was a victory for the Laura Chinchilla administration. Her Partido Liberación Nacional made up the bulk of the favorable votes.

Francisco Chacón González, a lawmaker of that party, said there are many reasons to support the free trade treaty and that many products, such as frozen orange juice, fresh flowers, plants, yucca and palm hearts are among the imports desired by China.

Luis Fishman of the Partido Unidad Social Cristiana said he voted against the measure because China still has to
complete the minimum with regard to respect for human rights. He said China was pushing for the treaty, not Costa Rica. Other opposition lawmakers said most residents would not benefit.

The commerce ministry negotiated the treaty over two years, starting in 2008 shortly after the country dumped Taiwan for the People’s Republic as diplomatic partners.

The products, like coffee, live fish, milk products and some fresh fruits that are not free of duty now will be within 10 or 15 years, said the commerce ministry.

It also said that the treaty will encourage Chinese investments here.

Trade with China was $91.1 million in 2000 and $1.3 billion in 2010, the ministry said.

The legislative path of the treaty had none of the protests and confrontations that typified the Central American Free Trade Treaty with the United States. In that case, the country even had to vote if it wanted to adopt the treaty. Passage took nearly seven years.

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