Trade Profile

flag Costa Rica Costa Rica: Trade Profile

Foreign Trade in Figures

Costa Rica is very open to foreign trade, which represents 80% of GDP. According to data by INEC, in 2023, the country’s main exports were other medical instruments and appliances (12%), syringes, needles, catheters, and the like (10.9%), other articles and appliances for prostheses (7.5%), fresh tropical pineapples (5.9%), and fresh bananas (5.1%); whereas imports comprised petrol (9%), diesel (7.1%), hybrid integrated circuits (2.3%), containers (1.8%), and medicinal products for human use (1.6%).

Costa Rica's main export partners in 2023 were the United States (45.0%), Netherlands (8.2%), Guatemala (4.97%), Belgium (4.24%), and Nicaragua (3.88%), with imports coming chiefly from the United States (43.75%), China (13.30%), Mexico (5.36%), Brazil (2.29%), and Guatemala (2.28%). The top five trading partners accounted for over 66% of the total customs value exchanged by the country in both trade flows. Notably, the United States stands out as the primary destination for Costa Rican exports and the source of Costa Rican imports, surpassing 40% of the total value in both trade flows (data INEC). There are no significant trade barriers affecting the entry of most goods and services into Costa Rica. Customs duties are relatively low and generally do not exceed 15%. Costa Rica offers many incentives for export companies, especially export subsidies and tax exemptions. Moreover, exports of high-value goods, such as electronics and medical equipment, which are supported by the government, play a key role in stimulating foreign trade. Costa Rica is a member of CARICOM and has several trade agreements with numerous countries, including the EU, Peru, China, Singapore, and the countries in Central America. In 2021, Costa Rica became an OECD member.

According to preliminary data from Costa Rica's Institute of Statistics, foreign trade in 2023 revealed an export customs value of USD 19.211 billion, while imports amounted to USD 26.396 billion, resulting in a trade deficit of approximately USD 7.185 billion. The country's structural deficit is due to the fact that a large proportion of manufactured exports depend on imported inputs, as well as the reliance on imports of consumer goods. According to estimates, Costa Rica should maintain a trade deficit over the medium term. Exports are expected to perform strongly on increased external demand for both capital and agricultural goods, mainly medical devices, pineapples, and bananas. However, that increase should not offset the growth in imports, driven by demand for capital goods and commodities, notably hydrocarbons. On the services side, tourism is a major export earner: the latest data from the WTO shows that Costa Rica is a net service exporter (USD 5.5 billion in imports against USD 11.8 billion in exports in 2022). Therefore, when computing goods and services, the World Bank estimated the country’s trade balance to be positive by 1.5% of GDP in 2022.

 
Foreign Trade Indicators 20192020202120222023
Imports of Goods (million USD) 17,57314,94220,72822,68524,039
Exports of Goods (million USD) 11,86412,31915,49416,59719,025
Imports of Services (million USD) 4,6143,4344,2695,5136,115
Exports of Services (million USD) 10,9067,9298,78312,14214,636
Imports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change) -2-13021n/a
Exports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change) 4-11030n/a
Trade Balance (million USD) -3,868-2,018-2,798-3,803n/a
Foreign Trade (in % of GDP) 66607280n/a
Imports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 31283539n/a
Exports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 34323741n/a

Source: WTO – World Trade Organisation ; World Bank - Latest available data.

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Main Partner Countries

Main Customers
(% of Exports)
2022
United States 43.8%
Netherlands 7.7%
Guatemala 5.3%
Belgium 5.2%
Nicaragua 3.9%
See More Countries 34.1%
Main Suppliers
(% of Imports)
2022
United States 38.8%
China 15.1%
Mexico 6.2%
Guatemala 2.7%
Brazil 2.6%
See More Countries 34.6%

Source: Comtrade, Latest Available Data

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Main Products

15.3 bn USD of products exported in 2022
Instruments and appliances used in medical,...Instruments and appliances used in medical, surgical, dental or veterinary sciences, incl. scintigraphic apparatus, other electro-medical apparatus and sight-testing instruments, n.e.s. 28.1%
Orthopaedic appliances, incl. crutches, surgical...Orthopaedic appliances, incl. crutches, surgical belts and trusses; splints and other fracture appliances; artificial parts of the body; hearing aids and other appliances which are worn or carried, or implanted in the body, to compensate for a defect or disability 7.8%
Dates, figs, pineapples, avocados, guavas, mangoes...Dates, figs, pineapples, avocados, guavas, mangoes and mangosteens, fresh or dried 6.8%
Bananas, incl. plantains, fresh or driedBananas, incl. plantains, fresh or dried 6.6%
Food preparations, n.e.s.Food preparations, n.e.s. 4.9%
See More Products 45.8%
21.1 bn USD of products imported in 2022
Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous...Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous minerals (excl. crude); preparations containing >= 70% by weight of petroleum oils or of oils obtained from bituminous minerals, these oils being the basic constituents of the preparations, n.e.s.; waste oils containing mainly petroleum or bituminous minerals 11.7%
Medicaments consisting of mixed or unmixed...Medicaments consisting of mixed or unmixed products for therapeutic or prophylactic uses, put up in measured doses "incl. those in the form of transdermal administration" or in forms or packings for retail sale (excl. goods of heading 3002, 3005 or 3006) 3.4%
Motor cars and other motor vehicles principally...Motor cars and other motor vehicles principally designed for the transport of persons, incl. station wagons and racing cars (excl. motor vehicles of heading 8702) 3.1%
Instruments and appliances used in medical,...Instruments and appliances used in medical, surgical, dental or veterinary sciences, incl. scintigraphic apparatus, other electro-medical apparatus and sight-testing instruments, n.e.s. 2.8%
Telephone sets, incl. telephones for cellular...Telephone sets, incl. telephones for cellular networks or for other wireless networks; other apparatus for the transmission or reception of voice, images or other data, incl. apparatus for communication in a wired or wireless network [such as a local or wide area network]; parts thereof (excl. than transmission or reception apparatus of heading 8443, 8525, 8527 or 8528) 2.8%
See More Products 76.2%

Source: Comtrade, Latest Available Data

 

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Main Services

Source: United Nations Statistics Division, Latest Available Data

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Commercial Policy

International Economic Cooperation
Member of the World Trade Organization (WTO)
Consult the Free Trade Agreement signed by Costa Rica.
Member of Central American Common Market (CACM)
Member of
Latin American Integration Association (ALADI) (in Spanish)
Member of Group of 77 (G-77)
Assessment of Commercial Policy
Country’s commercial policy
Barriers to exchanges
Average Customs Duty (Excluding Agricultural Products)
5.89%
 
 
 
 

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Latest Update: May 2024