An Alternative Market: Costa Rica and Panama Sign Trade Deal with European Free Trade Association


Photo courtesy of the European Free Trade Association

Two Central American countries–Costa Rica and Panama–signed a free trade agreement with the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) yesterday.

The signed trade deals follow five rounds of trade negotiations that were completed in December 2012.

The deal is significant for Costa Rica and Panama, because it provides additional access to the European market. The trade agreement with EFTA is expected to boost Costa Rican and Panamanian exports, particularly agricultural products such as coffee and bananas, to the European market. Additionally, Costa Rica and Panama will benefit from access to other large, developed markets besides the United States, with which both countries have also signed free trade agreements.

Currently, both countries showed a US$209 trade deficit with EFTA in 2012. Trade with EFTA has been very minimal compared to trade with other countries.

According to EFTA data, trade in goods between EFTA and the two Central American countries amounted to US$689 million. EFTA exports to Costa Rica and Panama combined reached US$446 million and imports, US$237 million in 2012. EFTA exports mainly pharmaceutical products, clock and watches to and imports mostly agricultural goods from Costa Rica and Panama.

The agreement “will become effective after completion of the necessary internal procedures by the Parties,” according to the EFTA website.

EFTA was created in 1960 for those states that were not a part of the European Economic Community (EEC), which is the present-day European Union. EFTA consists of Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein.

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About Dr. Sarita D. Jackson

is the President and CEO of the Global Research Institute of International Trade, a think-tank/consulting firm that examines trade policies and their impact on domestic businesses. Prior to heading GRIIT, Dr. Jackson was a tenured associate professor of political science in North Carolina and worked as a trade policy consultant for an Arlington-based consulting firm. She has participated in trade policy projects and conducted research on free trade negotiations in Botswana, Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Mexico and Panama. Dr. Jackson has also traveled to Chile and Argentina to study their political systems and economic integration policies.
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