More information about Costa Rica is available on the Costa Rica Page and from other Department of State publications and other sources listed at the end of this fact sheet.
U.S.-COSTA RICA RELATIONS
Costa Rica, a strong democracy of more than five million people with deep ties to the United States, is important to key U.S. goals in the region and is committed to continued close cooperation with the United States. It has an excellent trade and investment climate; is one of the strongest and most reliable voices in Latin America on human rights and rule of law; and has been a superb partner in the fight against transnational crime and drug trafficking. The country has a strong tradition of independent journalism, ranking first in Latin America and 7th best out of 180 countries on the World Press Freedom Index. Concerning, however, is Costa Rica’s increasing drug trafficking challenge; in 2020 Costa Rica was again listed as one of the major transit countries for drugs in Latin America.
It is estimated that prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, approximately 120,000 private American citizens, including many retirees, resided in the country; more than 1.4 million American citizens visited Costa Rica annually. Every year, over 1,100 Costa Ricans study at U.S. institutions of higher education. Over 8,000 U.S. students study in Costa Rica every year, and Costa Rica is the number one destination in Latin America for U.S. study abroad programs. Costa Rica’s borders were closed to non-Costa Rican citizens or residents starting in March 2020. As of September 2020, the country has re-authorized travel from only 20 U.S. states.
Costa Rica was the first Central American country to confirm a case of COVID-19 on March 6, 2020. During the spring and early summer, Costa Rica was one of the most successful Latin American countries in the fight against the pandemic. With early, quick, and strict restrictions on social and economic interactions; a comprehensive testing program; and a strong health care system, the number of cases and deaths was under control. During a phased reopening of the economy, however, there has been a significant increase in cases in August and September.
As of September 2020, the United States has provided medical supplies, personal protective equipment, and more than $1.6 million in supplemental assistance to Costa Rica to assist in controlling the effects of COVID-19.
U.S. Assistance to Costa Rica
The United States provided approximately $40 million in security assistance in each of the past two years to curb the flow of illicit drugs destined for the United States and to address high crime in Costa Rica.
The U.S. Strategy for Central America (The Strategy) guides U.S. diplomatic efforts and foreign assistance in the region. The Strategy is a bipartisan, multi-year U.S. government plan covering all seven Central American countries (Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Panama). The Strategy aims to secure U.S. borders and protect American citizens by addressing the security, governance, and economic drivers of illegal immigration and transnational crime, while increasing opportunities for U.S. and other businesses. The Strategy focuses on three overarching lines of action: 1) promoting prosperity, 2) enhancing security, and 3) improving governance.
The United States works hand-in-hand with a wide range of Costa Rican government agencies and non-governmental organizations to help secure Costa Rica’s borders, professionalize its police, strengthen its judicial sector, improve its corrections system, and empower at-risk youth. Prior to the pandemic, Peace Corps volunteers worked in economic development, education, and youth empowerment programs. U.S. Embassy programs promote entrepreneurship, economic inclusion, renewable energy, and energy efficiency. The Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement (INL) works closely with Costa Rican security partners to build capacity and assist disadvantaged communities. Through cooperation and assistance from INL and other law enforcement agencies, Costa Rica is confronting its drug trafficking problem, intercepting and confiscating record levels of illicit drugs in 2019 and again in 2020.
Bilateral Economic Relations
Costa Rica and the United States are parties to the U.S.-Central America-Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR), which aims to facilitate trade and investment and further regional integration by eliminating tariffs, opening markets, reducing barriers to services, and promoting transparency. CAFTA-DR contains a chapter on investment similar to a bilateral investment treaty with the United States.
The United States is Costa Rica’s largest trading partner, accounting for approximately 40 percent of Costa Rica’s exports and imports. The United States also represents the largest source of tourism and foreign direct investment to Costa Rica. According to the Costa Rican Central Bank, the U.S. foreign direct investment in Costa Rica amounted to $23.5 million in 2019, accounting for over 55 percent of the total inward investment. U.S. exports to Costa Rica include petroleum products, automotive parts and supplies, renewable energy, franchises, hotel and restaurant equipment, healthcare products, and construction equipment. U.S. imports from Costa Rica include medical devices, pineapples, bananas, and coffee.
Costa Rica’s Membership in International Organizations
Costa Rica and the United States belong to a number of the same international organizations, including the United Nations, Organization of American States, International Monetary Fund, World Bank, and World Trade Organization. Costa Rica realized its eight-year quest to accede to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) on May 15, 2020.
Principal U.S. embassy officials are listed in the Department’s Key Officers List.
More information about Costa Rica is available from the Department of State and other sources, some of which are listed here: