Costa Rica, with little under 60% of its territory covered by standing forests and an additional 26% of protected territory, is a country that holds 6.5% of the world’s biodiversity and an energy matrix that is 99.8% clean, green, sustainable. Costa Rica also prides itself of a global leader that superbly preserves the environment and plays an active role in the protection of land and water habitats while maintaining a diversified economy largely without harming the ecosystems.
Speaking of Costa Rica’s participation in the Expo 2020 Dubai, Francisco J. Chacon, Ambassador of Costa Rica to the UAE, recalls that Costa Rica envisioned the Expo 2020 Dubai as an agent of change, a process in motion, or a bridge to cross. Costa Rica, he said, is already sustainable per se, and therefore it did not need to focus on sustainability or opportunity, but on motion: movement to seize opportunities – momentums one forges – and the UAE represented a major opportunity that Costa Rica was aiming to reach and seize.
Costa Rica first established relations with the UAE and most of the Arab countries between 2010 and 2012. By 2017, Costa Rica had already opened an embassy in Abu Dhabi and a Trade Promotion Center in Dubai.
Chacon adds that, when former Costa Rican President Luis Guillermo Solis received the formal invitation from His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates and Ruler of Dubai, to participate in Expo 2020 Dubai, Costa Rica accepted invitation eager to consolidate its position in the Gulf market.
Back in 2018, Costa Rica signed a Memorandum of Understanding, which has allowed the country’s Trade Commissioner to work on opening doors and creating a valuable networking that prepared Costa Rica to rise up to the occasion of the EXPO 2020 Dubai.
- Costa Rica has over 50 Free Trade Agreements, reaching 2.5 billion consumers. In 2021, the country’s exports totaled US$ 14, billion. It has export hubs in the Caldera Port, in the Pacific Ocean, and the Moin and Limon Ports, in the Atlantic Ocean. In addition, the Juan Santamaria International Airport facilities managed to export more than 4,000 products to 150 countries.
- Cosa Rica is the world’s first pineapple producer, the third largest banana supplier, the first carbon-neutral coffee producer, and the first exporter of butterflies – some of them to the Emirate of Sharjah. It is also Latin America’s second largest medical device manufacturer.
- Based on statistical data obtained from the UAE Ministry of Economy, thanks to the dynamics of the Expo 2020 Dubai, Costa Rica’s exports to the UAE, from 2022 to 2021, increased 34.7%, with the overall trade volume experiencing a 37% hike as well. Costa Rica’s exports to the UAE totaled $US36 million while its imports from the UAE totaled US$13.1 million.
- Costa Rica managed to export Central American fresh fruit – including bananas, pineapple, melons, and tuna fish, and place them in supermarkets along with coffee, dried fruit, rainforest, water, and healthy chips, surmounting logistic challenges, via Dubai Jabel Ali, the main port of entry of Costa Rican products into the UAE. Costa Rica has also exported medical devices to the UAE.
- During Costa Rican President Carlos Alvarado’s presidential visit, the Investment Corporation of Dubai (ICD) announced a mayor development, the One and Only Papagayo, an ultra-luxury seven-star hotel in the Papagayo Gulf, in Guanacaste Province, one of the World’s only 5 blue zones. The ultra-luxury hotel is due to open in 2023.
- Emirates Airlines broadened its codeshare flight from Dubai to San Jose by adding Avianca Airlines to Jetblue, and connecting San Jose and Dubai through the U.S., Mexico or Canada, making connectivity easier and faster. Additionally, Emirates Holidays began promoting Costa Rica as a holiday destination throughout its huge network.
- Costa Rica started using the DMCC (Dubai Multi Commodities Center) thus giving coffee growers and exporters the possibility to roast green beans and re-export them from Dubai to the Gulf and Middle East and North Africa region.
- During Costa Rica’s participation in Expo, the Costa Rican reforestation program won the first-ever EARTHSHOT PRIZE, one of the highest recognitions on this planet in 2022. Moreover, the Costa Rican Pavilion won United Nations’ Champion of the Earth 2019.
Read the full text of Ambassador Chacon’s note below:
Costa Rica at Expo 2020 Dubai: a dynamic platform for trade growth
By Ambassador Francisco J. Chacon, Ambassador of Costa Rica to the UAE
With 59.44% of 51,180 square kilometers of standing forests; with an additional 26% of protected territory; with 6.5% of the World’s biodiversity and with a clean, green, sustainable energy matrix of 99.8%, Costa Rica is a global leader in an often-difficult balancing act. It superbly preserves the environment and plays an active role in the protection of land and water habitats and yet it has diversified its economy broadly without harming the ecosystems.
With $14,000 billion exports in 2021, more than 50 Free Trade Agreements that reach 2.5 billion consumers and two-thirds of the World’s GDP, Costa Rica manages to export from its logistic hubs in Caldera Port, in the Pacific, and in Moin and Limon Ports, in the Atlantic as well as through the Juan Santamaria International Airport facilities, more than 4,000 products to 150 countries. It is the 1st pineapple producer in the World, 3rd in banana supply, 1st on Carbon neutral coffee, and 1st on World exports of butterflies, some of them which makes it to the Emirate of Sharjah. It is the 2nd producer of medical devices in Latin America.
Since our first export product, coffee, was sent to England in 1840 to our newest only grown in Costa Rica, pink pineapples, a product that is mainly targeting the Gulf States in 2022, the Bicentennial Nation has achieved a record of 182 years of export history experience. Therefore, when the Costa Rican then Head of State, former President Luis Guillermo Solis, received the formal invitation from the Vice-President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates and Ruler of Dubai, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, to participate in Expo 2020 Dubai, Costa Rica, eager to consolidate its position within the Gulf market, jumped on the idea and accepted the generous and kind invitation.
When we chose to focus on the mobility leaf rather than sustainability or opportunity leaves, we envision Expo 2020 Dubai as an “agent of change” as a “process in motion”; as “a bridge to cross”, this is, Costa Rica is “per se” sustainable, had no need to focus on what it is and has always been but saw Dubai Expo as “movement”…We opened relations with the United Arab Emirates and most of the Gulf and Arab World after 2010, 2012 for the UAE to be precise. In 2019, we only had 7 years on the making in this country, 2 years with an opened Embassy in Abu Dhabi, 1 year with an opened Trade Promotion Office in Dubai, we needed as the old saying goes, to be ‘here, there, and everywhere’. So, mobility was a far better frame to describe our mindset then. We had in principle a huge opportunity in the UAE, but we were not there yet. We needed to move to grasp the opportunities. Opportunities are momentums you forge. And that is why we did not choose the opportunity leave either, we needed to get there first.
The results of 6 months of active motion in Expo Dubai 2020 were fantastic, very much comparable to a six month of stimulating Formula 1 race. I do not want to measure it by the number of ministers, deputy ministers, members of parliament, business groups, cultural groups, tourists and many individuals who came from Costa Rica, our current Head of State, President His Excellency Carlos Alvarado and First Lady Her Excellency Claudia Dobles, among them for our national day in Expo on December 7th, 2021. Needless to say, we are proud they all visited.
I measure our success in term of statistics, taking them from the UAE Minister of Economy that showed a substantial growth on our trade which is, an important component, due to the dynamics at Expo 2020 Dubai. From 2020 to 2021 Costa Rica’s exports to the UAE grew 34.7% with overall trade volume growing as well 37%. Overall yearly trade stands now at $49.1 million of which Costa Rica exports reached $36 million and UAE imports reached $13.1 million dollars. Finally, we managed to bring fresh fruit and fish from Central America to the UAE though the logistic challenges, via Dubai Jabel Ali, Costa Rican products main port of entry into the UAE. Costa Rican bananas, pineapples, melons and tuna made their way to the supermarkets together with coffee, dry fruit, rainforest water and healthy chips. Medical devices have been exported as well.
During the presidential visit of the Costa Rican Head of State, the Investment Corporation of Dubai (ICD) announced a mayor development in the Papagayo Gulf, in Guanacaste Province, one of the World’s only 5 blue zones, due to open in 2023, with the “One and Only” ultra-luxury seven stars famous brand. We commend His Excellency Mohammed Al-Shaibani, Managing Director of ICD and Director-General of Dubai Ruler’s Court, for his trust in our country’s capabilities.
Emirates Airlines, in turn, broaden its codeshare flight from Dubai to San Jose by adding Avianca Airlines to Jetblue connecting San Jose and Dubai through the US, Mexico or Canada, making it easier and faster for connectivity purposes. Additionally, Emirates Holidays begun promoting Costa Rica as a holiday destination throughout its huge network. We are so deeply grateful to His Highness Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al-Maktoum, Chairman and Founder of Emirates Airlines Group, for his support.
Last but not least, Costa Rica begun using the DMCC (Dubai Multi Commodities Center) by facilitating coffee growers and exporters the possibility to roast green beans and re-export them from Dubai into the Gulf and MENA Region. Our friend, Ahmed bin Sulayem, have done a wonderful job at the helmet of DMCC.
Reaching my fifth year as the first Ambassador of Costa Rica in the UAE, I am able to reflect back on all we have learned and achieved in the process. Trade wise, the one entity that has been instrumental for our growth is Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry. In our early days, back in 2018, we signed a Memorandum of Understanding which has allowed our Trade Commissioner to work from the chamber opening doors and creating a valuable networking which prepared us to match expectations when EXPO 2020 Dubai came. The Dubai Chamber GBF LATAM process gave us the know-how to understand the Gulf culture of business. GBF Latam 2022 promises to follow on the footsteps of their predecessors with the gigantic added value of been held now within EXPO 2020 Dubai. My immense gratitude will always be there for those names who helped Costa Rica in this five year’s process: Majid Al-Ghurair, Essa Al-Ghurair, Abdulaziz Al-Ghurair, Hamad Buamim and all the good people that makes the family, my family, Costa Rica’s family at Dubai Chamber.
Expo Dubai 2020 made one of the Happiest Nations on Earth happier. It proved that a small country so far apart can succeed in new niches of market and truly, now, could begin grasping those opportunities into tangibles. And as if this wasn’t enough to be proud of, during our participation in Expo, Costa Rica reforestation programme won the first, ever EXPO support EARTHSHOT PRIZE, one of the highest recognitions on this planet in 2022. Our Pavilion won too the Expo sustainability prize. No wonder why Costa Rica, the United Nations Champion of the Earth 2019, is so very, very grateful to have been an Expo Dubai participant. We will miss you Expo 2020 Dubai, we love you, thank you Dubai, thank you UAE, thank you Commissioner General His Highness Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al-Nahyan and Director-General Her Excellency Minister of State Madame Reem Al-Hashimy, for a marvelous journey together.