Costa Rica: Canada’s primary partner in Central America

| October 26, 2011 | 0 Comments
Costa Rica has added high-tech manufacturing to traditional exports, such as coffee from Orosi Valley plantations.

Costa Rica has added high-tech manufacturing to traditional exports, such as coffee from Orosi Valley plantations.

Strategically located in Central America, Costa Rica offers investment opportunities for companies interested in broadening their horizons and settling themselves in a country that — with its strong democratic institutions and its efforts to achieve sustainable inclusive growth — represents a success story and a valued partner and friend for Canada.
Costa Rica shifted its development model in the early 1990s, to focus on opening up its economy. Since then, it has accomplished consistent growth of its exports and a diversification of its export products and destinations. Exports have grown at an average annual rate of 8 percent since 2001.
While the traditional agriculture exports (bananas, coffee, sugar and beef) are still important, the country has been very successful in diversifying its production and export trade toward higher value-added goods and services (notably high tech) and niche sectors (eco-tourism). Currently, Costa Rica exports more than 4,000 different products to 153 destination countries, and exports and imports represent 90 percent of our GDP.
In the last 10 years, the country has achieved a consistent growth in foreign direct investment (FDI), which has become a significant complement to domestic savings. Total FDI inflows have grown an average of 10.2 percent every year since 2000.
Currently, more than 200 multinational companies are operating in Costa Rica.
The country has had success in attracting foreign companies in innovative industries such as services, advanced manufacturing and medical devices. The number of companies in the advanced manufacturing sector is 83 percent higher than in 2000, 288 percent higher for the medical devices industry, and 1,800 percent higher for the services industry.
What attracts these companies to invest in Costa Rica? FDI Intelligence has selected San José as one of the 10 best cities for future foreign direct investment due to its competitive advantage in promoting business establishment and growth.
The country’s political, social, and economic evolution set it apart from the rest of the region. Due to the country’s commitment to social inclusion, Costa Rica is considered one of the countries with the best human development performance.
It started in 1870, when Costa Rica made education free and mandatory, which has allowed us to have one of the best education systems worldwide and a qualified workforce. According to the Global Competitiveness Report 2010-2011, Costa Rica ranks first in net primary education enrolment rate, and our education system is the highest ranked in Latin America.
The country has a strong and world- renowned tradition of, and commitment to, democracy, stability and human rights. Costa Rica has been the most stable democracy in the developing world, with no breakdowns since 1948, when it abolished its army. Consequently, Costa Rica is among the top-ranked countries in the Political Stability and Absence of Violence Index in Latin America (World Bank, 2008) and is the safest country in Central America and Latin America (Latin Security Index 2009). It also offers a high quality of life to its residents: San José ranks fourth among the cities in Latin America for the best quality of life.
As well, Costa Rica has a strong commitment to environmental protection, ranking No. 3 in the world in environmental performance (Environmental Performance Index, 2010). In 51,000 square kilometres (0.03 percent of the planet’s whole surface), Costa Rica has 91,000 animal and plant species, equivalent to 4.5 percent of the species identified so far in the whole world. In 1970, the country decided to create a national parks system, of which 25.5 percent is now under a variety of preservation regimes.
Thanks to this natural richness and environmental stewardship, the country is one of the top destinations in the world, especially for ecotourism. Annually, we receive more than 100,000 Canadian tourists, and we have more than 13,000 Canadian residents.
Because of its strategic position, Costa Rica is a platform to North America, and to the rest of the world. Companies established in Costa Rica have exceptional access to the world’s greatest markets, accounting for 2.3 billion people and more than 68 percent of worldwide GDP. We also have free trade agreements with nearly all of our relevant commercial partners, including Canada, the United States, the European Union and China.
Due to its low prices for Internet access, its positive press liberty and its percentage of high-tech products, the World Economic Forum ranked Costa Rica third in Latin America in technological competitiveness.
Currently, Costa Rica is Canada’s most important commercial partner in Central America. In 2001, we signed a free trade agreement which has allowed the commercial flow to increase more than 40 percent, reaching US$529 million in 2010. However, we are now looking to add more activities and look forward to a relationship with more opportunities in both directions.
While Canada and Costa Rica already share a good relationship and many common values, during my term of duties I would like to help strengthen ties between the two countries.

Luis Carlos Delgado Murillo is ambassador of Costa Rica to Canada. Reach him at or

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Category: Diplomatica

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