OTTAWA Ontario – Canada and Costa Rica have agreed to work toward modernizing the existing bilateral free-trade agreement, announced Peter Van Loan, Canada’s minister of international trade, who just concluded his five-day, four-country visit to Latin America. The Canadian government also intends to table a bill to implement the Canada-Panama Free-Trade Agreement in the next session.

“Expanding market access in areas such as cross-border trade in services, financial services and government procurement will create even more economic opportunities and jobs for Canadian businesses and communities,” Van Loan said.

He used this visit to Latin America to underscore the importance Canada places on its trade relationship with the region, to press for the lifting of ongoing bans on Canadian beef and cattle, and to seek improved access for Canadian pork. Costa Rica advised the Minister that it would provide new recognition of Canada’s inspection system for pork.

Van Loan also reinforced Canada’s engagement in the Americas by signing a memorandum of understanding on youth mobility with Costa Rica. The Canadian government has negotiated 30 bilateral youth mobility arrangements around the world.” These exchanges will enhance bilateral relations as well as people-to-people ties between Canada and our Latin American partners,” Van Loan said.

During his trip to Latin America, Van Loan also visited Chile, Argentina and Colombia to strengthen bilateral relations and highlight Canada’s advantages as a trade and investment partner. In addition to the existing free-trade agreements with Chile, Costa Rica and Peru, the Government of Canada recently completed free-trade agreements with Colombia and Panama.

Panama is an important market for Canada, while the bilateral trade and investment relationship has strong potential for long-term growth.

Canada has other free-trade related initiatives under way in the region to bolster economic growth and prosperity, including negotiations with the Central America Four (El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua), the Caribbean Community and the Dominican Republic.

Minister Van Loan reaffirmed the Harper government’s commitment to working closely with governments in Latin America to pursue our shared objectives of democracy, open markets and security during his meetings with government officials and business leaders.

“Canadian businesses and workers can compete with the best in the world, confident that our government is helping to entrench economic recovery through freer trade and open markets,” Van Loan said. “In less than four years, our government has opened doors to Canadian business by concluding new free-trade agreements with Colombia, Peru, Jordan, Panama and the European Free-Trade Association states of Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Liechtenstein.

“At the same time, our government has also launched discussions on economic partnership with two of the world’s largest economies: the European Union and India,” he concluded.