Commerce ministry officials defended the proposed free trade agreement between Costa Rica and Colombia and sought to show business owners the opportunities available in the treaty at a conference Wednesday.
The conference also included a panel discussion and forum of business leaders from the food, tire and pharmaceutical industries supporting the treaty. Leading the discussion was Fernando Ocampo, vice minister of the Ministerio de Comercio Exterior.
The treaty has been sharply criticized by some leaders in manufacturing industries.
Five presidents of chambers that represent some of these industries condemned the treaty Monday. These industrial leaders said that the two countries compete in similar areas and do not have complementary products to export.
Using the panel members of various industries as evidence, Ocampo sought to show that this was not the case for all sectors or industries. He explained that the objective of both countries in the negotiations is to provide opportunities for some industries while still protecting others.
“It’s a very complex process, but we are very confident that at the end of the negotiation we will be able to have a good balance between these two interests,” said Ocampo.
Today is the final day in the second round of negotiations between Costa Rica and Colombia over the free trade agreement.
“In every specific subsector, there are industries or companies that want to export to Colombia, but there are also companies that say ‘I am afraid’ or ‘I have some concerns about imports from Colombia,’ Ocampo said. “We are trying to have a balance at the end of the negotiations.”
The panel included food industry leaders Rebecca González, general manager of Alimentos Kámuk International, and Marvin Rodríguez, of Grupo Pelón. Additionally, Roy Rojas, international relations manager at the tire producer Bridgestone, and Alvaro Camacho, president of an association representing the pharmaceutical industry spoke in the panel.
Although this meeting catered more to those who are looking to export to Colombia than those that are nervous about Colombian exports, Ocampo said that the process is continuing. He noted that there was a series of consultation forums held last month for industries and that there are ones coming up in October in order to get input from those that think they will be affected by the proposed agreement.
“We have done this before,” said Ocampo. “We have done it with the China negotiations, we have done it with the European negotiations, and at the end everyone was happy with the results.”
“We believe that with Colombia we will be able to keep the same balance,” he added, noting that the third round of negotiations will take place in December.