Costa Rica seeks entry to North America trade pact

FILE PHOTO: Rodrigo Chaves is sworn in as Costa Rica's new president, in San Jose

SAN JOSE (Reuters) - Costa Rica has told the United States it is interested in joining the North American trade pact between the United States, Mexico and Canada, President Rodrigo Chaves said on Wednesday.

Chaves said he had sent the message to the White House expressing his desire to join the United States-Mexico-Canada trade agreement (USMCA), the modern iteration of the quarter-century-old North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

"If you want to stay close to the country and share values, we need to strengthen relations and improve business opportunities and growth in the United States," Chaves told a news conference following a meeting with Chris Dodd, U.S. President Joe Biden's special adviser for the Americas.

Dodd said he had spoken with Chaves about opportunities to boost economic ties, but made no comment on a possible entry for Costa Rica into the North American trade pact.

Costa Rican Trade Minister Manuel Tovar said the talks were in an "exploratory phase," adding that a potential inclusion in the USMCA would not be incompatible with its current membership in the United States-Central America (CAFTA) trade agreement.

"We are evaluating opportunities," said Tovar, adding membership in the trade pact would give Costa Rica an "immense advantage" and add another strategic link to global supply chains.

The United States is Costa Rica's largest trading partner, according to the U.S. State Department, accounting for 38% of Costa Rica's imports and 42% of exports.

The Central American country has 10 bilateral and five multilateral trade agreements in force.

Chaves, who came into government in May, is looking to expand the country's trade horizons. The country is also negotiating a free trade agreement with Ecuador and advancing plans to join the Pacific Alliance.

(Reporting by Alvaro Murillo; Editing by Sandra Maler)