Last updated in October 2016
Costa Rica and Germany enjoy a cordial relationship founded on mutual trust. Bilateral relations are untroubled and focus mainly on trade and economic exchange, long-standing development cooperation and cooperation on environmental issues and climate protection as well as cultural, scientific and academic relations.
Germany enjoys a very positive image in Costa Rica, thanks in part to the country’s well-assimilated German community.
Germany is one of Costa Rica’s principal trading partners in the European Union. In 2015, Costa Rica exported to Germany goods worth USD 444.8 million and imported from Germany goods worth USD 209.5 million. Costa Rica’s principal exports to Germany are bananas, pineapples, coffee and ornamental plants. Its main imports from Germany are machinery, chemical products and cars including spare parts.
Costa Rica is a popular holiday destination. Nearly 70,000 German tourists visited the country in 2015.
A bilateral investment protection and promotion agreement has been in place since 1998. A bilateral double taxation agreement was signed in San José in February 2014. The agreement, which was given its second – and final – reading in Parliament on 8 January 2016, still has to be formally signed by the President and published in Costa Rica’s law gazette before it can enter into force on 1 January 2017.
Negotiations between the EU and six Central American countries – including Costa Rica – on a bi-regional Association Agreement providing for gradual customs facilitation were concluded in May 2010. Costa Rica’s government ratified the agreement in July 2013. The Association Agreement’s trade-related articles have been provisionally applied vis-à-vis Costa Rica since 1 October 2013.
With per capita GDP of USD 10,936 in 2015, Costa Rica now ranks among the world’s middle-income countries. The country’s liberal economic policy and the population’s generally high level of education have led to continuing stable economic growth over a period of several years, with the exception of 2009. According to official figures, the poverty rate stands at over 20 per cent, including an extreme poverty rate of 6.7 per cent. The country’s Gini coefficient is 0.508 (2014).
In November 2006, the last new commitments were made in San José as part of "traditional" Technical and Financial Cooperation, which was in the process of being phased out. Since then, climate protection has evolved into a new priority area of cooperation through Costa Rica’s inclusion in the Federal Government’s International Climate Initiative. This relativises the termination of bilateral development cooperation. As a pioneer of climate-neutral growth – the current government of President Solís is also continuing to pursue the goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2021 – Costa Rica is an attractive partner for Germany in testing new forms and methods of international climate cooperation.
In addition, Costa Rica is increasingly becoming a key partner and location for regional development cooperation projects. Cooperation by the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) with Costa Rica as part of the Central American Integration System (SICA) focuses on supporting the competitiveness of small and medium-sized companies, promoting employment and business start-ups among young people, energy efficiency and energy conservation, protecting biodiversity and reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD). Germany also supports a joint project with the Inter-American Court of Human Rights to strengthen access to justice.
Culture and education
Although Costa Rica’s political and economic as well as cultural affinities are largely with the United States, the cultural sector is an important component of German-Costa Rican relations. Partly in response to the growing U.S. influence, particularly in the mass media, Costa Ricans continue to be interested in European culture.
An important part of Germany’s cultural work is promoting the German Colegio Humboldt, an International School with a total of nearly 1,000 students and kindergarten children, ten seconded teachers and four federal programme teachers. Four partner schools in Costa Rica are members of the Schools: Partners for the Future initiative, which is also funded by the Federal Foreign Office.
The German Academic Exchange Service’s (DAAD) Regional Office in San José runs an Information Centre that conducts bilateral and regional programmes to promote the exchange of lecturers and students (particularly postgraduate students) as well as university cooperation throughout Central America. There are special bilateral agreements on academic and student exchanges with various Costa Rican institutions, including the National Council of Rectors (CONARE) and the public Universidad de Costa Rica (UCR), as well as with the Confederation of Central American Universities (CSUCA). The DAAD has a network of contact persons and supports alumni associations in the region. A total of some 80 exchange measures are funded with and within the region every year. In March 2005, a Humboldt Chair was established at UCR, which is designed to help further intensify interdisciplinary academic exchange. In addition, in September 2012 the Wilhelm and Alexander von Humboldt Special Chair in Humanities and Social Sciences was set up at UCR, which is co-funded by UCR and the DAAD.
There is a Goethe Centre in Costa Rica, at two locations in San José. It offers German courses at all levels and awards German language certificates to successful participants. Every year, a total of around 1,800 people enrol in one of the Goethe Centre’s language courses.