Democracy Dialogues: Costa Rica's Foreign Trade Minister on the Country's Success

Manuel Tovar discussed Costa Rica's evolving economy, trade expansion, and foreign direct investment.


  • Manuel Tovar, Minister of Foreign Trade of Costa Rica
  • Eric Farnsworth, Vice President, Americas Society/Council of the Americas

“Strong institutions, commitment to democracy, to human rights, to the principle of rule of law are part of that secret sauce,” said Costa Rica's Minister of Foreign Trade Manuel Tovar during an interview with AS/COA Vice President Eric Farnsworth on the country's democratic success and economic progress. "Democracy is also about ensuring that your people have the means to scale up, to grow up in terms of economic development," he said.

The minister discussed how trade expansion has propelled Costa Rica's economic development. For example, Costa Rica has agreements with countries in Asia, South America, and North America and is considering accession to the United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement (USMCA). Farnsworth asked Tovar if there are any concerns over Costa Rica experiencing exploitation when entering trade agreements with countries with large economies. "It is those corporations and big companies that have chosen Costa Rica, have trusted in Costa Rica, that have created thousands and thousands of jobs," said Tovar.

On Costa Rica-China relations, Minister Tovar noted that Beijing hasn't met investment expectations. For example, in the last four years, Costa Rica has received $10 billion in foreign direct investment (FDI) from the United States while only receiving $8.5 million from China. Additionally, U.S. companies employ around a quarter of a million Costa Rican people, while Chinese companies employ just 350. Nevertheless, the minister explained that the country will continue diversifying its trade agenda with other regions, such as the Middle East. 

Democracy Dialogues is a series of conversations we need to be having now on the state of democracy in the Americas. Hosted by Eric Farnsworth, these one-on-one interviews with leading democracy practitioners explore the most difficult issues of regional democratic governance with an eye toward pragmatic, well-calibrated solutions.

Past featured guests have included Colombia's then-President Iván Duque, NBA Basketball Star Enes Kanter Freedom, OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro, CubaDecide founder Rosa María Payá, Editor-in-Chief of Americas Quarterly Brian Winter, and founder and Editor of Nicaragua's Confidential Carlos Fernando Chamorro.

Follow the conversation: #DemocracyDialogues | @ASCOA

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