Exporters and officials are declaring 2011 a successful year for international business conducted from Costa Rica.
According to the annual report of Promotora del Comercio Exterior, or PROCOMER, the country as a whole achieved $15.4 billion in total exports in 2011. That figure includes $10.4 billion in goods and $5 billion in services. Both were significant increases over 2010. The exports are compiled of more than 4,300 products that originated in 2,412 companies operating in the country. Those products reached a total of 145 different destinations across the globe, the report said.
Agricultural products such as bananas and pineapples and industrial products such as electric cables and tires, among others, saw marked increases in exportations over 2011.
Costa Rica as an exporter is known for its high-technology goods and medical supplies. The Ministerio de Comercio Exterior reports that Costa Rica is the largest exporter of advanced technology products in Latin America and fourth in the world. The ministry also said Costa Rica is the second largest exporter of medical devices in Latin America, only trailing Mexico. Many of these goods are manufactured in the so-called free zones where manufacturers do not have to pay import taxes on raw materials.
The general manager of Promotora, Jorge Sequeira Picado, said in a press release that products originating in the free zones saw an increase of nearly 10 percent over 2010 in value of exports. The ministry also reports that the free zones are where more than half of all the country’s exported goods are generated and a third of all the exported services. The ministry also reports that businesses in the free zones attracted $470 million in foreign investment in 2011, making it the sector of the Costa Rican economy that receives the largest percentage of foreign investment.
The free zones are being eyed by lawmakers for more taxes and to allow municipalities to assess levies. Promotora opposes this idea, which is why the emphasis was placed on the free zones or the zonas francas.
Apart from exports the ministry reports that 30 percent of all private sector jobs, and 13 percent of all jobs, in Costa Rica are generated by the free zones. The official report indicates that in 2011 several large corporations such as Bridgestone, Intel, IBM, Helix medical and GW Plastics opened new installations in these zones.
The United States represents the largest receiver of Costa Rican exports with a 38 percent share. Holland is the second most valuable destination for Costa Rican goods with about 7.1 percent of the share. China is in third with 6.9 percent.