Costa Rica’s chamber of the food industry has criticized the Ministry of Foreign Trade for removing sugar, among other products, from the proposed free trade treaty with Colombia in the first round of negotiations.
This will mean that farmers and businesses within the two countries will not be able to buy or sell sugar to each other, as well as coffee, flowers and bananas, which were also excluded from the agreement.
The chamber, the Cámara Costarricense de la Industria Alimentaria, focused on sugar specifically, because it said that not being able to buy sugar from Colombia will put Costa Rican food producers at a disadvantage to Colombian industry.
“If you want a country like Costa Rica to compete with Colombia, you need everything to be on the table,” said Marco Cercone, president of the chamber, in a phone conversation.
Sugar and the other commodities are key exports for both countries.
The chamber pointed out that such restrictions put processed food and drink producers at a disadvantage, because these
companies will not be able purchase the cheapest sugar. The chamber said that this will force these local companies to increase prices and make them less competitive internationally.
“If we don’t have the tools with good prices, then we cannot compete,” said Cercone.
In a press release, the chamber said it will not support a treaty with such an agreement between Costa Rica and Colombia, and voiced concerns for what might occur to the local food processing industry if this ends up in the final treaty.
In addition to the standard operational costs, Cercone described in a press release how Costa Rican food producers will have to contend with new competing imports while they must buy more expensive sugar.
“This terrible practice of protecting a commodity, like sugar, is an attack against the consumer and against creating added value, for this reason, CACIA rejects the possibility of supporting a supposed ‘free trade treaty’ with such features,” said Cercone in the press release.
This is the first round of negotiations between the countries on the free-trade treaty that will encompass many other products and commodities. Handling negotiations for Costa Rica is the Ministerio de Comercio Exterior.