Politicians devote a fair share of their time to talking about foreign investment, but they rarely hop straight on a plane to personally court foreign investors immediately after being elected to their posts. But Luis Guillermo Solis, Costa Rica's president, did exactly that, visiting the US with an army of senior officials just one month after taking office in May 2014.
Not that he was left with much of a choice, given that shortly after the elections Bank of America and Intel announced a plan to cut a total of 3,000 jobs in Costa Rica. “Both events had to do with global decisions, rather than Costa Rica's local conditions... but they triggered my decision to travel [to the US] very early on in my administration,” Mr Solis tells fDi Magazine during a meeting in New York.
Quick off the mark
During Mr Soli's visit to the US, the currents of 'global decisions' began flowing in a much favourable direction for Costa Rica. Intel decided to open a new mega lab in the country and VMware, a California-based cloud computing and IT company, which first entered the country in 2012 with just three employees, announced its plan to expand its work force to some 400 employees by 2015.
Mr Solis views his visit to the US as an opportunity to promote Costa Rica's bid to become a hub for high-tech and innovative companies. “There are more than 250 companies in Costa Rica working in highly technological and sophisticated technological fields,” he says.
Director-general of the Costa Rica Investment Agency, Gabriela Llobet, assisted Mr Solis on his trip to New York and told fDi that the country is proactively targeting investments into software and IT, life sciences, advanced manufacturing and business services. She adds that under the new administration, there are also plans to attract more investments into areas outside of San José, the country's capital.
As part of this diversification drive, Mr Solis says that he also hopes to see an increase in trade and the number of crossborder projects coming from within central America. “Now that the North American and European economies are beginning to recover, we hope that [our] relationship [with these markets] will pick up. On the other hand, we are also betting on the central American and Caribbean markets, which are more closely associated to the domestic Costa Rican market and its firms,” he says.
In February 2014, under Mr Solis's predecessor, Laura Chinchilla, Costa Rica began negotiations to join the Pacific Alliance, a Latin American trading bloc comprising Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Peru.
“We have free trade agreements with all the partners of the alliance and we have to further analyse a number of questions, but yes, we are considering the possibility of joining [the Pacific Alliance],” says Mr Solis.