Netherlands 2nd largest destination for Costa Rican exports

The Netherlands is today the world’s second-largest destination for Costa Rican exports and one of the top foreign investors in Costa Rica. As such, the Royal Netherlands Embassy in San José now oversees all Dutch diplomatic activity in Central America (with the exception of Belize and Panama).

As a former colonial power in the Caribbean, the Netherlands retains its strong interest in the region; the $1 billion container port at Moín now being built by Rotterdam-based APM Terminals is Costa Rica’s largest single foreign investment project.

After APM, the second-largest Dutch investor here is Heineken, which owns 25 percent of Florida Bebidas. Another key player is Unilever, which has four factories in Central America, including a facility in San Antonio de Belén that produces Costa Rica’s ubiquitous Salsa Lizano.

Mette Gonggrijp, Holland’s ambassador in Costa Rica said that Costa Rican exports to her country — led by bananas, coffee, pineapples and electronics — exceed $3 billion a year, making Holland the second-largest buyer of local products after the United States. But that can be misleading.

“Since the Netherlands is the main gateway to Europe, a lot of what enters the Port of Rotterdam is then distributed to other countries in the EU,” she said, explaining that Dutch exports to Costa Rica come to around $124 million.

“We used to have a development aid relationship with Costa Rica. Now the focus has changed much more to political issues — where we think along the same lines as Costa Rica on human rights — and to economic and commercial issues,” she said. “The relationship has been evolving, particularly with the EU-SICA free trade agreement which entered into force at the end of 2013.”

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