San José, Costa Rica         Thursday Edition,  February 22, 2018         Vol. 18, No. 222
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Free Trade Agreement signed with South Korea

By AM Costa Rica staff

Tuesday the minister of Foreign Trade, Alexander Mora, along with four other ministers of Central America and Panama signed a free trade agreement with South Korea.

The trade agreement signed in Seoul aims to reduce tariffs on goods being exported to the Asian country, expand financial relationships in other sectors and improve the entry of South Korean imports of vehicles and electronics to the region.

According to Alexander Mora, the minister of Foreign Trade, the agreement reflects the approaches of each of the productive sectors involved.

"The most aggressive sectors for this negotiation were the agricultural sectors and some industrial or agricultural producers. The sectors that had a more defensive proposal (less open) and that requested exclusions were the industrial sectors," said Mora.

Regarding market access, the minister also said that the sectors that had a more offensive position achieved openness and a gradual reduction process, while the defensives obtained exclusions.

In the last 10 years, exports from Costa Rica to South Korea increased at annual rates of approximately 15 percent, while imports only reached rates of 4 percent per year. That is, exports grew four times more than the import of products.

The bulk of the national export to South Korea is coffee, agricultural products, and medical devices.

"You will not see, in the process of legislative negotiation, productive sectors that are oppositional because each one obtained what was requested. The only one that could raise an observation about it is the consumer," said Mora.

It is expected that the agreement, which began to be negotiated in 2015, will reach the Legislative Assembly in the next two weeks, where it will have to pass the analysis of the International Affairs and Foreign Trade Commission.

Along with the treaty, a memorandum of understanding was also signed with the Korean minister of commerce, industry, and energy to transfer to Costa Rica the methodologies, models, and practices that the Asian country has to serve the productive sectors when there is trade liberalization and some productive sectors are negatively impacted.

A.M. Costa Rica wire services photo      
Exports to South Korea have increased
15 percent yearly.

"The agreement will teach us that Korea is one of the most open countries in the world. It is also a country very proud of its productive capacity and which has a very aggressive policy of productive development without being a protectionist country," Mora said.

Guatemala is the only country in the region that is not part of the agreement.

The signing of the text was attended by the South Korean trade minister, Kim Hyun-Jong, his counterparts from Costa Rica and Nicaragua, Alexander Mora and Orlando Solórzano, the Salvadoran economy minister, Tharsis Salomón López, the minister of Economic Development of Honduras, Arnaldo Castillo and the deputy minister of International Trade Negotiations of Panama, Diana Salazar.

According to the Costa Rican Foreign Trade Promoter, the nations with which Costa Rica have trade agreements and tariff preferences are responsible for 66.6 percent of the world's Gross Domestic Product and 35.5 percent of the world's population.

Currently, the country has trade agreements with Colombia, Central America, Canada, Chile, China, Mexico, the United States and Singapore and an association agreement with the European Union, among others.

Costa Rica signed its last trade agreement with Colombia in May 2013. The text was approved by the assembly July 15, 2015.

Study digs into the climate awareness of Latin Americans

By AM Costa Rica staff

The Inter-American Development Bank and Latinobarómetro conducted a study to find out if tropical cyclones, heat waves, and other natural disasters are perceived as a consequence of climate change or, on the contrary, as phenomena that were always present in nature but sometimes occur more often.

"The environmental social conscience emerges as a fundamental point around which to organize efforts to mitigate and adapt to climate change, leading to environmental governance in the region," the report reads.

The data reveals that only 32 percent of the population of the region thinks that climate change does not exist, while 62 percent does think it does. The countries that most reject the existence of climate change are some of the countries of Central America and Ecuador, where 55 percent say that the phenomenon does not exist.

On the other hand, when consulting on human responsibility in the matter and on who will be most affected by its climate change, there is a high level of consensus on the statement, "humans are the main responsible for climate change" where 83 percent of responses agree and strongly agree. This result is independent of the gender, age or socioeconomic status of the participants.

When analyzing the responses by country, Uruguay and Costa Rica at one extreme with 91 percent of the answers affirming climate change and the Dominican Republic and Guatemala with 73 percent and 75 percent negative responses respectively denying climate change).

In the Southern Cone, the situation is the opposite. It is the region that most accepts the existence of this phenomenon, and in Uruguay, only 11 percent of the citizens questioned do not believe in climate change.

Beyond the belief whether it exists or not, there is the perception of who is responsible. The report states that "curiously" even those who deny the existence of the phenomenon identify who is responsible.

83 percent of Latin Americans say that humans are responsible for climate change. "The sense of guilt floods the collective imagination of the region, that we are the ones who have brought this evil," the report cites.

In turn, 69 percent of the inhabitants of Latin America believe that it is an urgent problem that must be addressed immediately. Moreover, 71 percent believe that the fight against climate change must be given priority, regardless of its negative consequences on economic growth.

The report infers that the environmental position of each country is determined by the experience of what has happened in its immediate environment with water, air, sea, flora, and fauna.

It also points out that Latin American attitudes contradict, "quite bluntly" the new U.S. policy on the subject, including that country’s withdrawal from the Paris agreement.

A.M. Costa Rica wire services photo       
32 percent of people surveyed denied the existence
 of climate change.

"It has not been common in the history of public opinion to find this degree of contradiction with a United States position regarding a world public policy like this one. It is probably the first time that the contradiction is so visible and important, in a matter that crosses all the regions and countries of the world," the report reads.

The article addresses the issue of the environment and climate change specifically for Latin America which contains 40 percent of the planet's biodiversity.

Latin America’s natural resources are an essential source of wealth that, enhanced by human capital and technological advances, offer unparalleled opportunities for its insertion in the global economy, the report said.

Regional integration based on a sustainable development strategy of the countries requires shared efforts and policies that promote the responsible use of resources and care for the environment, it added.

Experts and informed citizens that follow the climate worldwide agree that the climate is changing and has continued to do so since the end of the last Ice Age. Ocean levels have risen  400 feet, and the level continues to rise at about a quarter inch a year, according to the U.S. Government. The political issue revolves around how much of the change is caused by human activity.

Those who reject climate change generated by human activity argue that warming exists, but that it has already taken place at many other times in the history of the planet. That is to say, the warming would be part of a natural cycle of the earth that has been unchained independent of the human action.

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