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Costa Rica

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

Costa Rica actively courts foreign direct investment (FDI), placing a high priority on attracting and retaining high-quality foreign investment. There are some limitations to both private and foreign participation in specific sectors, as detailed in the following section.

The Foreign Trade Promotion Corporation (PROCOMER) as well as the Costa Rican Investment and Development Board (CINDE) lead Costa Rica’s investment promotion efforts. CINDE has had great success over the last several decades in attracting and retaining investment in specific areas, currently services, advanced manufacturing, life sciences, light manufacturing, and the food industry. In addition, the Tourism Institute (ICT) attends to potential investors in the tourism sector. CINDE and ICT are strong and effective guides and advocates for their client companies, prioritizing investment retention and maintaining an ongoing dialogue with investors.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

Costa Rica recognizes and encourages the right of foreign and domestic private entities to establish and own business enterprises and engage in most forms of remunerative activity. The exceptions are in sectors that are reserved for the state (legal monopolies – see #7 below “State Owned Enterprises, first paragraph) or that require participation of at least a certain percentage of Costa Rican citizens or residents (electrical power generation, transport services, professional services, and aspects of broadcasting). Properties in the Maritime Zone (from 50 to 200 meters above the mean high-tide mark) may only be leased from the state and with residency requirements. In the areas of medical services, telecommunications, finance and insurance, state-owned entities dominate, but that does not preclude private sector competition. Costa Rica does not have an investment screening mechanism for inbound foreign investment, beyond those applied under anti-money laundering procedures. U.S. investors are not disadvantaged or singled out by any control mechanism or sector restrictions; to the contrary, U.S. investors figure prominently among the various major categories of FDI.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

Costa Rica’s investment policy reviews in recent years tend to be positive but qualified by a list of problems that need immediate attention, for example underfinanced infrastructure, lax intellectual property rights (IPR) enforcement, slow environmental permitting, and a persistent and growing government budget deficit. The OECD completed a comprehensive investment policy review in September 2013: . In 2014, Costa Rica became the 45th country to adhere to the OECD Declaration on International Investment and Multinational Enterprises. OECD accession talks for Costa Rica began in 2015; within that context the OECD in April 2018 published the “OECD Economic Surveys Costa Rica 2018”. .

In the same context, the OECD offers a number of recent publications relevant to investment policy: .

The World Trade Organization (WTO) completed its most recent trade policy review in September 2013: .

Business Facilitation

Costa Rica’s single-window business registration website,, brings together the various entities – municipalities and central government agencies – that must be consulted in the process of registering a business in Costa Rica. A new company in Costa Rica must typically register with the National Registry (company and capital registry), Internal Revenue Directorate of the Finance Ministry (taxpayer registration), National Insurance Institute (INS) (basic workers’ comp), Ministry of Health (sanitary permit), Social Security Administration (CCSS) (registry as employer), and the local Municipality (business permit). Crearempresa is one of 31 national business registration sites evaluated by “Global Enterprise Registration” ( ), which awards Costa Rica a relatively lackluster rating because Crearempresa has little payment facility and provides only some of the possible online certificates.

The Costa Rican government’s small business promotion efforts tend to publicly focus on participation by women and underserved communities. The women’s institute INAMU, vocational training institute INA, Ministry of Economy MEIC, and the export promotion agency PROCOMER through its supply chain initiative have all collaborated extensively to promote small and medium enterprise with an emphasis on women’s entrepreneurship.

The World Bank’s “Doing Business” evaluation for 2018, , states that business registration takes a total of 9 steps in 22.5 days. Notaries are a necessary part of the process and are required to use the Crearempresa portal when they create a company. Women do not face explicitly discriminatory treatment when establishing a business.

Outward Investment

The Costa Rican government does not promote or incentivize outward investment. Neither does the government discourage or restrict domestic investors from investing abroad.

13. Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment Statistics

Table 2: Key Macroeconomic Data, U.S. FDI in Host Country/Economy

Costa Rican Central Bank (BCCR) USG or International Statistical Source USG or International Source of Data:
BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
Economic Data Year Amount Year Amount
Host Country Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ($M USD) 2016 $56,989 2016 $57,436 
Foreign Direct Investment Host Country Statistical source* USG or International Statistical Source USG or International Source of Data:
BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
U.S. FDI in Partner Country ($M USD, stock positions) 2016 $20,698 2016 $1,565 BEA data available at
Host Country’s FDI in the United States ($M USD, stock positions) 2016 $222.9 2016 ($92) BEA data available at
Total Inbound Stock of FDI as % host GDP 2016 64.86% 2016 5.1% Central Bank from same data set as above, $36.96 billion.
For Intl. source – World Bank – see reference below.

* For 2016 GDP in dollars with National Accounts exchange rate, the Costa Rican Central Bank (BCCR) is “Host Country Statistical Source.” .
* For 2016 Yearly US FDI in partner country, previous year’s data is posted March 31 of every year, Costa Rican Central Bank (BCCR) is “Host Country Statistical Source.” .
* For “Total Inbound Stock of FDI as % host GDP,” World Bank Indicators. .

Table 3: Sources and Destination of FDI

Direct Investment from/in Counterpart Economy Data -2016
From Top Five Sources/To Top Five Destinations (US Dollars, Millions)
Inward Direct Investment Outward Direct Investment
Total Inward 33,869 100% Total Outward 2,866 100%
United States 18,200 53.7% Nicaragua 936 32.7%
Spain 2,374 7% Guatemala 894 31.2%
Mexico 1,780 5.3% Panama 566 19.7%
Netherlands 1,340 4% United States 119 4.2%
United Kingdom 1,250 3.7% Puerto Rico 108 3.6%
“0” reflects amounts rounded to +/- USD 500,000.

Source: IMF’s Coordinated Direct Investment Survey (CDIS) site: ( ).

Table 4: Sources of Portfolio Investment

Portfolio Investment Assets – 2016
Top Five Partners (Millions, US Dollars)
Total Equity Securities Total Debt Securities
All Countries 5,514 100% All Countries 64 100% All Countries 5,450 100%
USA 1,820 33% Ireland 28 43.8% USA 1,813 33.3%
Luxembourg 1,299 23.6% Portugal 10 15.6% Luxemb 1,293 23.7%
Netherlands 451 8.2% USA 7 10.9% Netherl 451 8.3%
Germany 447 8.1% Norway 6 9.4% German 446 8.2%
Ireland 313 5.7% Luxemb 6 9.4% Ireland 285 5.2%

Source: IMF Coordinated Portfolio Investment Survey (CPIS) ( ).

Investment Climate Statements
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The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future