Costa Rica voters will determine Oct. 7 if U.S. meat exports to their country will gain duty-free status. In a measure proposed by The Central America Free Trade Agreement, U.S. meat exports would receive improved access to this growing market.

Some Costa Ricans fear providing duty-free access to large U.S. companies will harm local businesses. Ricardo Vernazza-Paganini, a U.S. Meat Export Federation official, however, expects the CAFTA initiative to be ratified. CAFTA already has increased access and decreased tariffs for U.S. products in several Central American countries.

U.S. pork products exported to Costa Rica currently face a 45 percent duty. However, under CAFTA, the United States will have duty-free access up to 1,100 metric tons. Currently, Canada has 85 percent of the import market share for chilled/frozen pork destined for Costa Rica.

Katherine Nishiura, agricultural counselor for Costa Rica says, "If 40 percent of the electorate votes in the referendum election, then the result will be binding,". "If less than 40 percent of eligible voters turn out, then the National Assembly will ratify the agreement legislatively."

Source: U.S. Meat Export Federation