France and Costa Rica/B_descRubAff1>
France and Costa Rica have traditionally enjoyed good relations, thanks to our converging views on many multilateral issues, including environmental protection, combating climate change, combating terrorism and corruption, and human rights. Our political dialogue is currently focused on two crucial areas: human rights and combating climate change. In this context, our relations have strengthened since 2013, with trips made by senior civil servants and high-level bilateral meetings.
After the new Costa Rican government was established, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Religion, Mr Manuel González Sanz, was received by Laurent Fabius on 6 October 2014 in Paris. The President of the Republic of Costa Rica travelled to Paris in June 2015 for the most recent Latin America and Caribbean Week. In this context, he attended the International Economic Forum on Latin America and the Caribbean on 5 June 2015 in Paris as a guest of honour. On the same day, President Solis was also received by the President of the French Republic for a bilateral meeting, which concluded with the signing of three statements of intent in the fields of tourism, French language teaching, and training and innovation cooperation. The Costa Rican Minister of Education, Ms Sonia Mora Escalantes, met with the French Minister of National Education, Higher Education and Research, Ms Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, on 4 November 2015.
Trading of goods between France and Costa Rica grew by almost 28% in 2012 to €235 million, before levelling off at €224.4 million in 2014. Our exports (€42.4 million) showed little change compared with 2013 (€42.6 million), while our imports (€182 million) fell by 10.8% (€204 million in 2013). Costa Rica is France’s fourth-largest customer in Central America, after Panama, Guatemala and Nicaragua.
France’s presence there is fairly small and primarily industrial. Nevertheless, our companies are well-represented: Total (the largest French investor), Schneider Electric (power distribution, process automation and building controls), Legrand (electrical equipment), Engie (construction and operation of a 49.5 MW wind farm in Guanacaste). In 2013, French foreign direct investment flows totalled €96 million. Costa Rica’s need to diversify its energy sources (to include geothermal and wind energy) and its major development projects (transport infrastructure, introduction of electric vehicles) are a source of opportunities for our businesses.
The entry into force of a bilateral agreement on the exchange of tax information in late 2011 led to Costa Rica being removed from the list of non-cooperative tax jurisdictions in 2012.
Costa Rica provides a base for French cooperation in the region, with the Institut Français of Central America (IFAC). It is also the last Latin American country where French remains compulsory in the education system. Our cooperation includes training the thousand or so French teachers working in the primary, secondary and higher education systems. French cultural cooperation is supported by a network involving a particularly active Alliance Française (2,500 students) and the Franco-Costa Rican Lycée (900 pupils).
Academic cooperation, which is a highlight of our relations with Costa Rica, led to the opening of the Jacques-Yves Cousteau Observatory for seas and coastal areas in Central America (OCAC) in 2011 and the creation, the same year, of the UNESCO-Cousteau Chair at the University of Costa Rica.
There are currently around twenty university partnerships. Based at the University of Costa Rica, the Central America unit of the French academic network Institut des Amériques helps to develop academic exchanges through conferences and reciprocal hosting of guest professors. Academic cooperation with Costa Rica is also supported by the France-Latin America and the Caribbean regional programme “PREFALC”, which aims to facilitate the setting up of Masters programmes (8 projects since 2002 with Costa Rican universities). The 3rd PREFALC seminar was held in San José in November 2015, in partnership with IFAC. The decision of the National University of Costa Rica to become the first Central American member of the French-speaking academic network Agence Universitaire de la Francophonie (AUF) lays the ground for new cooperation opportunities.
An agreement on mutual recognition of qualifications and periods of higher education study between conferences of French establishments (CPU, CDEFI) and Costa Rican ones (CONARE) was concluded on 10 November 2015 during the visit to Paris of the Costa Rican Minister of Education and the Chair of CONARE. Other cooperation opportunities are being considered in the field of higher education evaluation and quality assurance.
Compared to other host countries, France ranks fifth in terms of intake, after the United States, Spain, Cuba and Germany (source: UNESCO 2013). The number of Costa Rican students at French higher education establishments has risen slightly in recent years: in 2014-2015, France hosted 130 Costa Rican students (compared with 122 in 2013-2014), of whom 40% were Masters students and 38% were doctoral students. French higher education opportunities are promoted by the Campus France regional office in San José.