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Costa Rican food firms worried by free trade pact
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Costa Rican food firms
worried by free trade pact

By Aaron Knapp
For A.M. Colombia

Costa Rican manufacturers worry that Colombia will get upper-hand in a free trade treaty.

Costa Rican manufacturers voiced concern that the proposed free-trade treaty would put them at a disadvantage to their counterparts in Colombia, after the two countries concluded the first phase of negotiations on a free-trade treaty.

Agricultural products were the subject of these negotiations, and the two countries agreed not to include coffee, flowers, bananas and sugar in the agreement. This means such products will not benefit from reduced import duties.

The Cámara Costarricense de la Industria Alimentaria, a chamber of commerce representing the food industry, criticized Costa Rica's Ministerio de Comercio Exterior specifically for removing sugar from the agreement. Not being able to buy sugar from Colombia will put Costa Rican food producers at a disadvantage to those in Colombia, the chamber said.

This made other Costa Rican manufacturing industries worried that this decision would set a precedent of giving Colombia the commercial edge, especially since labor is already cheaper in Colombia.

“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, and for that reason, negotiators agreed not trade these products with one another.

However, the chamber pointed out that such restrictions will handicap processed food and drink producers, 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. These negotiations are expected to last five months.
— Aug. 3, 2012

Foundation honored for mangrove work

By the A.M. Colombia staff

The United Nations Environment Programme announced that a Colombian organization has been awarded a fuel-efficient car made by Kia for efforts to host an event promoting environmental action and protection.

The organization, Fundación Ecoprogreso, hosted an event to raise awareness of mangroves and how vital they are to the environment near Cartagena. That was June 5, which the UN designated at World Environment Day.

The foundation was one of five organizations to win the award from around the world. The other organizations hosted events in Australia, Bangladesh, India and Kenya.

“Today we celebrate five inspiring projects, submitted for  the World Environment Day 2012 challenge, that illuminate the pathway to a transition to a green economy,” said Achim Steiner, the U.N.’s environmental program director, in a press release.

The foundation was founded in 2008 with the purpose of protecting the wetlands around Cartagena, specifically the mangroves there.

“We have seriously threatened wetlands and communities living in extreme poverty interact with them in a vicious cycle where poverty leads to environmental degradation and this in turn leads to more poverty,” wrote the foundation on its Web site.

The event, which was a day of activities that brought attention to how mangroves can affect tourism and sustainable fishing, played well into the United Nation’s theme this year which was how each individual can contribute containing humanity’s effect on the planet and the environment.

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