U.S. meat exporters urge Costa Rica to endorse DR-CAFTA
The U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) said consumers in Costa Rica would be better off if voters back the Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement in a referendum election Oct. 7.
There are reservations about DR-CAFTA within Costa Rica, the only country included in the original U.S.-sponsored trade pact that has yet to ratify the agreement.
USMEF said some Costa Ricans fear giving large U.S. companies duty-free access to Costa Rica would drive local Costa Rican companies out of business.
But Ricardo Vernazza-Paganini, USMEF director of Central and South America and global strategic coordination, said DR-CAFTA would improve market conditions and provide better access to U.S. beef and pork products.
He noted that Costa Rica already produces more beef than it consumes. However, that beef is primarily from the Cebu breed of cattle, which is slaughtered at more than 30 months of age and is tougher than U.S. beef, which comes from younger, grain-fed cattle.
With a growing number of expatriate Americans living in Costa Rica, there is a demand for U.S. beef. But there an 18 percent duty on beef exports.
U.S. meat producers have an eye on the Costa Rica market, yet plans remain on hold until the outcome of the Oct. 7 referendum. In addition, the final outcome is dependent on the percentage of voters who participate in the referendum.
'If 40 percent of the electorate votes in the referendum election, then the result will be binding,' said Katherine Nishiura, USMEF agricultural counselor for Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Panama. 'If less than 40 percent of eligible voters turn out, then the National Assembly will ratify the agreement legislatively.'