Ambassador envisions long, fruitful relationship
Updated: 2013-06-03 01:55
By Cheng Guangjin and Mike Peters (China Daily)
President Xi Jinping's visit to Costa Rica is expected to bring the countries' relationship to a higher level, with more cooperation in areas including trade, infrastructure, energy and tourism, said the Central American country's ambassador to China.
Marco Vinicio Ruiz, ambassador of Costa Rica to China
Ambassador Marco Vinicio Ruiz said his country is honored to host Xi on his first trip to the region, and the visit is evidence that relations between Costa Rica and China "are going through a very important period".
There have been notable achievements in the six years since the two countries established diplomatic relations on June 1, 2007. China has become Costa Rica's secondbiggest trade partner, and Costa Rica is China's ninth-largest trade partner in Latin America.
High-level exchanges have been frequent. Shortly after the establishment of diplomatic ties, former Costa Rican president Oscar Arias visited China and current President Laura Chinchilla visited Beijing in August. In 2008, former Chinese president Hu Jintao visited Costa Rica.
Ruiz noted that the most important bilateral achievements include the Chinese-financed construction of the National Stadium in Costa Rica, the free trade agreement between the two countries that he called a "milestone", the creation of a Chinatown in Costa Rica's capital San Jose and the opening of the Confucius Institute at the University of Costa Rica.
"In general the relationship will be focused on trade, infrastructure, energy, sustainable development, education, sports, tourism and culture," said the ambassador.
Ruiz said trade relations between the two countries are "very strong".
"For 15 years we have been part of the world supply chain of electronic products. We've attracted a lot of companies from the US and Europe to use Costa Rica as their base of operations, including Intel, and that export capacity has been good for China," he said.
Ruiz added that the country is now eager to make its food industry a player in the Chinese market, too.
"We were recently able to introduce our beef and dairy products, and during this visit we hope to sign an agreement on pork as well. Costa Rica exports very high quality food products. It may start slowly, but we expect steady, strong growth for our agricultural exports to China."
In April, Costa Rican Minister of Environment and Energy, Rene Castro, toured China and negotiated long-term loans of about $50 million to finance the replacement of his country's fleet of taxis and buses with "greener vehicles". In return, he said, Costa Rica will help China in its effort to rejuvenate forests and reduce emissions.
Famous for its natural beauty, Costa Rica has been popular with travelers from the United States and Europe. Ruiz expects tourism to be very important in cultural and economic relations with China, too.
"In the past two years there has been growing interest from Chinese tourists who have already been to the likes of New York, Los Angeles and Paris. People in Beijing and Shanghai like the idea of our clean air and pristine beaches, and we are working very hard to bring them a quality experience," he said.
"We are probably the only country in Latin America that allows Chinese who already have a US or Schengen or Japanese visa to come here without getting another visa. We see Costa Rica as a potential tourist hub for the Americas that we can develop over the next five years. You can come here and enjoy nature, then go north and south for other sightseeing and shopping."
Costa Rica has been called the "bridge" between China and Latin America.
Ruiz believes that Costa Rica plays an important role for China, not only because it is the only Central American country with diplomatic relations, but also because of its strategic position in the middle of the Americas.
In terms of commerce, Costa Rica's importance comes from the fact that free trade agreements enable products produced in Costa Rica to have preferential access to many different markets such as North, South America and the Caribbean. "All of this is very important for the Chinese enterprises," Ruiz said.
Besides, Xi's visit demonstrates the strategic importance that the Chinese authorities grant to the Latin American and Caribbean region, he said, adding "the future will see more and more joint initiatives between China and the region as a whole in a wide variety of topics ranging from infrastructure to science and technology".
Costa Rica will hold the Seventh China Latin America Business Summit in November, which the ambassador said will "certainly be an ideal setting to further enhance bilateral and regional businesses, using Costa Rica as a platform to preferentially enter the North and South America market".