Those following free trade agreements and TRIPS-plus agreements will be familiar with the tortuous approval process of the Dominican Republic and Central American Free Trade Agreement in Costa Rica (DR-CAFTA). While all other signatory states have already approved the agreement, Costa Rica is still in the process of passing it into law due to heavy political opposition. The opposition has been such that President Oscar Arias signed an executive decision allowing a referendum to take place in October 2007 (Decreto del Poder Ejecutivo 33.717 MP).

The Costa Rican press has been reporting on the unconstitutionality action brought by the Defensoría de los Habitantes (a citizen ombudsman), and 17 legislators from several opposition parties. The argument is that the existing text in CAFTA violates several constitutional norms, particularly with regards to the opening of the telecommunications market. The Costa Rican Constitutional Court (Sala IV) has voted to uphold the constitutionality of the agreement 5 votes in favour and 2 against (2007-09469). The Court’s reasoning has not been published yet, but the vote has been made available by the press. I will write a brief outline of the analysis as soon as it is published, as this may prove to be an extremely important and historic decision.

This ruling will green-light the referendum. The YES camp is consistently ahead in the polls, with roughly 50% of the voting population in favour of its approval.


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