BEIJING, April 8 - China signed a free trade deal on Thursday with Costa Rica, a country that only established diplomatic ties with the Asian giant in 2007 but which now joins a small group of nations who enjoy such an accord.
China's Commerce Ministry, in a statement on its website (www.mofcom.gov.cn), said the pact was signed in Beijing between Commerce Minister Chen Deming and his Costa Rican counterpart Marco Ruiz.
President-elect Laura Chinchilla, who takes over from Oscar Arias in early May, will need support from opposition lawmakers to pass the law and make Costa Rica the third Latin American nation to seal a trade deal with China.
"The signing of the agreement shows both countries' resolute determination to uphold openness to the outside (world) and oppose trade protectionism against the background of the global economic crisis," the Chinese Commerce Ministry said.
The pact will lift duties on 99 percent of Costa Rican exports to China, including its high-quality coffee and other farm products. Chinese import tariffs on Costa Rican coffee will drop to zero in the next 10 years, the ministry added.
Costa Rica is China's ninth largest trading partner in Latin America, while China is the Central American country's second largest trade partner. The two nations reached an agreement on the pact in February.
Under the deal 90 percent of Chinese imports, including electronics and appliances, will be exempt from tariffs.
China has also signed free-trade deals with Pakistan, New Zealand, Singapore and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), who members include Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam and Myanmar.
Costa Rica ended 60 years of diplomatic ties with Taiwan in 2007 and instead forged relations with Beijing in a break with its small Central American neighbours who traditionally recognise Taiwan in exchange for aid.
China shuns commercial relationships with governments such as Guatemala that recognise Taiwan.
Last year, bilateral trade between China and Costa Rica reached $3.19 billion, up 10.2 percent on 2008.