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Viewing cable 07SANJOSE1783, COSTA RICA AND CHINA: IS TRADE THE TIE THAT BINDS?

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07SANJOSE1783 2007-09-27 17:05 2011-03-04 16:04 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy San Jose
Appears in these articles:
http://www.nacion.com/2011-03-04/Investigacion/NotasDestacadas/Investigacion2697549.aspx
http://www.nacion.com/2011-03-04/Investigacion/NotasSecundarias/Investigacion2697564.aspx
http://www.nacion.com/2011-03-04/Investigacion/NotaPrincipal/Investigacion2697557.aspx
http://www.nacion.com/2011-03-04/Investigacion/NotasSecundarias/Investigacion2697581.aspx
http://www.nacion.com/2011-03-04/Investigacion/NotasSecundarias/Investigacion2697579.aspx
http://www.nacion.com/2011-03-04/Investigacion/NotasSecundarias/Investigacion2702553.aspx
http://www.nacion.com/2011-03-04/Investigacion/Relacionados/Investigacion2702554.aspx
VZCZCXYZ0001
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHSJ #1783/01 2701733
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 271733Z SEP 07
FM AMEMBASSY SAN JOSE
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8956
INFO RUEHZA/WHA CENTRAL AMERICAN COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING PRIORITY 0136
RUEHGP/AMEMBASSY SINGAPORE 0059
RHMFISS/HQ USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL
RUEHIN/AIT TAIPEI 0078
C O N F I D E N T I A L SAN JOSE 001783 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPARTMENT FOR WHA/CEN, EAP/CM; SOUTHCOM FOR FPA 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/18/2017 
TAGS: CS CVIS ETRD PGOV PINR PREL XK
SUBJECT: COSTA RICA AND CHINA: IS TRADE THE TIE THAT BINDS? 
 
REF: A. SAN JOSE 1488 AND PREVIOUS 
     B. BEIJING 5819 AND PREVIOUS (ALL NOTAL) 
 
Classified By: DCM Peter Brennan per 1.4 (d) 
 
1.  (C) SUMMARY:  Sino-Costa Rican relations have gotten off 
to a splashy start, with trade as the centerpiece.  The new 
Chinese Embassy in San Jose opened on August 24, in 
conjunction with a trade fair which reportedly netted USD 12 
million in sales or commitments for the Chinese and USD 140 
million for the Costa Ricans.  The two countries also created 
a commercial forum, and the GOCR eased visa restrictions for 
Chinese businessmen and travelers.  Minister of Foreign 
Commerce Ruiz participated in an investment and trade fair in 
China September 8-11.  President Arias will visit China 
October 22-28, as part of a broader trip including some 
Middle East states (to burnish newly-established relations), 
Singapore (to open a new embassy) and Chile (for the 
Ibero-American Summit).  Costa Rica views China as its 
gateway to Asia and an important ally for its UNSC 
aspirations.  China is using Costa Rica primarily as a "base" 
to expand relations throughout Central America.  Both sides 
seem satisfied with that arrangement at this point.   END 
SUMMARY 
 
NEW HOME, NICE NEIGHBORHOOD 
========================== 
 
2.  (SBU) A heavy rain did not dampen spirits for the opening 
of the Chinese Embassy, which featured three GOCR ministers 
(2nd VP Kevin Casas, FM Bruno Stagno and FinMin Guillermo 
Zuniga); PRC Assistant FM He Yafei, VM of Commerce Ma Xiuhong 
and other senior officials; the 120-plus members of the 
visiting Chinese trade delegation; a wall-to-wall crowd of 
other guests; and heavy media coverage.  The tight security 
(including blocked streets, a rarity for San Jose) and the 
prime location of the chancery (a large house a short walk 
from President Arias,s residence) generated comment.  But, 
Ambassador Wang Xiaoyuan was quick to explain to PolCouns 
that he had selected the site simply because it was available 
and (more or less) affordable.  Wang added that the Chinese 
consulate was located in another house nearby while he and 
his wife were still searching for a suitable residence.  (PRC 
Emboffs confirmed this to us on September 26.)  He expressed 
the hope that other countries in the region would make the 
same "correct decision" as had Arias (to recognize China). 
(COMMENT: Not only are the PRC consulate and embassy close to 
Arias's house, but the consulate is directly across the 
street, with the PRC flag in full view from his residence. 
END COMMENT.) 
 
SHOW US THE MONEY 
=============== 
 
3.  (SBU) The three-day Chinese trade exposition that ran 
concurrently with the embassy opening featured a broad range 
of products, from industrial, to telecommunications to 
cosmetic jewelry.  The expo was sponsored by the Chinese 
Council for Promotion of International Commerce (CCPIT) and 
the Chinese Chamber of International Commerce (CCOIC).  The 
breadth of products spanned 32 vendor displays, prompting one 
Costa Rican visitor to remark, "There is everything here!" 
Econoff also observed Wang Jinzhen, CCPIT Executive Vice 
President, guide the GOCR,s Zuniga on a personal tour of the 
expo.  The Chinese clearly "came to play."  Wang told 
PolCouns that the CCPIT had been planning for this trade fair 
and new ties with Costa Rica for over a year. 
 
4.  (U) Chinese vendors signed contracts worth USD two 
million and secured letters of intent valued at over USD 10 
million for the sale and distribution of Chinese products. 
On the Costa Rican side, growers from the Terrazu region were 
especially pleased by the Chinese purchase of 37,000 lbs of 
high-end coffee beans, and by the visit of some Chinese 
businessmen to tour Terrazu first hand.  The GOCR hopes that 
gourmet coffee will be a major export to China.  Some 30,000 
visitors toured the show, according to media reports, as 
Chinese VM Ma optimistically predicted that two-way trade 
could total USD 3 billion by the end of 2007.  (According to 
figures released by the Casa Presidencial, two-way trade 
between Costa Rica and China totaled USD 1.7 billion in 2006, 
with nearly USD 870 million alone in microprocessing chips 
exported by Intel to China.)  Separate from the San Jose 
exhibit, the PRC and GOCR launched a bilateral Economic and 
Commercial Forum, which facilitated the commitment to 
purchase USD 140 million of Costa Rican products, led by 
coffee. 
 
OF VISAS AND VISITS 
============== 
 
5.   (SBU) The commercial opening with China was accompanied 
(as expected) by easier visa restrictions (Ref C).   On 
September 19, Immigration officials privately reconfirmed to 
us what Director Mario Zamora had announced publicly last 
month.   Chinese travelers technically remain in Class 4, the 
toughest category which requires a visa and special approval 
(from the MFA and Immigration) before entering the country. 
But, bonafide business travelers from China no longer need 
special approval, and can enter the country on visas issued 
by the new Costa Rican embassy in Beijing, being treated in 
effect as Class 3 travelers, permitted to stay in country 30 
days.  In addition, any Chinese traveler with a valid EU or 
US visa would be placed in the lighter Class 2, permitting 
them to enter Costa Rica, visa-free, and remain up to 90 
days. 
 
6.  (C)   While more Chinese may be headed for Costa Rica, 
more GOCR officials are visiting China.  Minister of Foreign 
Commerce Marco Vinicio Ruiz participated in an investment and 
trade fair in Xiamen September 8-11 and also reportedly met 
with Ministers Bo Xi Lai (Trade) and Yang Jie Chi (Foreign 
Relations), as well as CCPIT VP Gao Yan.  President Oscar 
Arias will depart Costa Rica on October 21, in order to visit 
China October 22-28, a schedule changed from earlier 
proposals partly because of the president,s lingering 
tendonitis.  According to Antonio Alarcon, FM Stagno,s COS, 
the Arias trip will still be a grueling zig-zag, proceeding 
from China to Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States, for brief 
stops to shore up newly-established relations, and to 
follow-up Stagno,s globetrotting tour in pursuit of UNSC 
votes for Costa Rica.  From the Middle East, Arias will 
proceed to Singapore (to open a new embassy), with a brief 
stop in Jakarta (again, UN-related).  Arias will round out 
his trip in Santiago, for the Ibero-American Summit in early 
November.  According to PRC Emboffs in charge of coordinating 
the visit, Arias will visit Beijing and two other cities, 
with a larger delegation than had been planned originally. 
Twenty-five officials, including Ministers Stagno, Ruiz and 
Zuniga (probably) will accompany the president.  The Chinese 
here say that a reciprocal visit by President Hu, including a 
number of stops in Central America, is contemplated for 2008. 
  The Chinese diplomats in San Jose explain that they have 
been given the bilateral lead in arranging Arias's visit, 
given the small size and inexperience of the Costa Rican 
embassy in Beijing. 
 
INSIDERS' VIEW (AND CONSULS IN HANDCUFFS) 
============================ 
 
7. (C) Alarcon, who was dispatched to Beijing to set up the 
Costa Rican embassy, acknowledged to Pol/C on September 12 
that trade clearly dominates the bilateral agenda with China. 
 The Arias administration, he added, accepts the fact that 
the PRC may already have as much as it wants commercially 
from Costa Rica and is really using its new ties with San 
Jose as a platform to expand relations around Central 
America.  Alarcon explained that the GOCR wanted a "clean 
divorce" from Taiwan, which rules out informal ties for the 
time being, even if offered by Taiwan.  The PRC has begun 
picking up the slack from Taiwan, meanwhile, accepting the 
fist batch of Costa Rican university students for Mandarin 
language training which had previously been conducted in 
Taipei. 
 
8. (C)  Separately, PRC diplomats candidly told us September 
26 that the regional political significance of the new ties 
with Costa Rica far outweighs any trade benefits for China. 
Lan Hu, Second Secretary and head of the Political/Press 
Section of the new embassy added that, in the end, it was the 
GOCR's concerns which dictated the normalization timetable. 
Although private (and in some cases, backchannel) discussions 
had taken place for months with Costa Rica, the final 
announcement came so suddenly that Lan was dispatched from 
his previous posting in Madrid with just two day's notice. 
Lan also predicted that Panama would be the next Central 
American country to recognize China, with El Salvador being 
the last.  He made it clear the PRC was taking a (typically) 
long-term view to expanding dilomatic relations around the 
hemisphere. 
 
9.  (SBU) Of the GOCR Embassy opening in Beijing, Alarcon 
described a hectic rush to locate, equip and staff a suitable 
office, carefully monitored by the Chinese in the process. 
To avoid even the appearance of impropriety, Alarcon was 
extremely careful to spend only official GOCR funds and to 
decline any special treatment by the PRC.  The Embassy will 
be staffed by the Ambassador (Antonio Burgues), a DCM (TBD), 
two trade officers, two consuls and one or two administrative 
staff.   The two consuls, the only Mandarin speakers in the 
Costa Rican foreign service according to Alarcon, were 
stopped by confused and overzealous airport police personnel 
while transiting Los Angeles on September 11.  Alarcon 
advised that the GOCR would protest the treatment of the two 
diplomats, who were even handcuffed until their situation was 
clarified.  (NOTE:  The Ambassador was summoned to the MFA on 
September 17 to receive the protest note, which we emailed to 
WHA/CEN on September 18, septel.) 
 
COMMENT 
========= 
 
10.  (C) Costa Rica views China as its gateway to Asia and an 
important ally for its UNSC aspirations.  China is using 
Costa Rica as its gateway into Central America.  Both sides 
seem satisfied with this arrangement, for now, but there have 
not been many tangible deliverables for the GOCR.  The China 
card will not help Costa Rica gain access to APEC, an Arias 
administration goal, until the membership moratorium is 
lifted in 2010.  New ties to China are no guarantee that 
Costa Rica will win its much-sought after UNSC seat in 
elections next month, either.  Recognizing China should bring 
needed investment, especially for infrastructure, but the 
money has not begun to flow in large quantities.   On the 
commercial side, although the trade shows and talk of new 
opportunities in Asia are welcome, Tico commentators and 
private citizens alike have expressed concerns about being 
overwhelmed some day by the Chinese juggernaut.  This is one 
important new relationship the GOCR will have to manage 
intelligently and carefully. 
BRENNAN