11 August 2011
San José, Costa Rica
Prime Minister Stephen Harper made the following remarks while on an official visit in San José, Costa Rica:
"Madam President, I am delighted to be making my first official visit to your beautiful country, but I’m certainly not the first Canadian.
"As you mentioned, more than 10,000 of my fellow Canadians, drawn by Costa Rica’s stability, high standard of living – and perhaps the weather – have made their homes here: to them, I extend cordial greetings.
"I should especially like to thank you, Madam President, for the generous hospitality that you have extended to myself, and to all of our staff and delegation.
"Costa Rica is an important partner for Canada in Central America.
"As of this year, we have enjoyed diplomatic relations for fifty years.
"And in this area, Costa Rica is one of the most like-minded countries. We share similar on a range of issues from democracy and human rights, to security and free trade.
"President Chinchilla and I discussed a range of issues.
"We also witnessed the signing of two important agreements.
"The Air Transport Agreement will give our airlines greater flexibility that will, in turn, mean more options for travelers.
"The Tax Information Exchange Agreement will help authorities combat tax evasion in both countries, increase investment and promote fairness for honest taxpayers.
"Since the 2002 Canada-Costa Rica Free Trade Agreement came into force, two-way trade and investment between out two countries have grown significantly.
"Indeed, within Central America, Costa Rica is already Canada’s largest merchandise trade partner.
"However, the existing agreement is somewhat dated. It has not kept up with the expansion of business.
"It does not, for instance, cover cross-border trade in services or government procurement.
"Nor does it reflect current thinking about labour and environmental cooperation.
"It is time that it be upgraded.
"I am therefore delighted to announce that negotiations will begin this fall to extend and modernize this agreement – something we hope to achieve over the next year.
"And I am confident that the result of a successful expansion of our trade agreement will be greater prosperity and more opportunities for people in both our countries.
"Finally, President Chinchilla and I discussed the security challenges Costa Rica faces, especially from transnational criminal organizations.
"Earlier today, I visited the Costa Rica Police Academy.
"Here, patriotic Costa Ricans are training to counter these criminal organizations.
"In so doing, they contribute to the fight against a plague that affects all of us.
"I am therefore delighted to announce that Canada will contribute funds towards strengthening the capacity of Costa Rica’s national police.
"I’m also pleased to note, as President Chinchilla already did, the improvement of our visa service. I know this is a very important step forward for Costa Ricans, particularly Costa Rican business people.
"In that spirit, I should like to conclude with an invitation, Madam President, to celebrate our good, strong friendship of so many years and the commercial ties that have been developing between us.
"I should like to invite you to come north to Canada. I know you have many family connections there, so come and experience our warmth of our own hospitality on an official visit."