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Trade Profile

Foreign Trade in Figures

Customs duties in Costa Rica are relatively low; in general, they do not exceed 15%, with the exception of dairy products, livestock and agricultural products. No tax is levied on imports coming from Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Nicaragua. However there is an export tax on bananas and coffee. Costa Rica offers many incentives for export companies, especially export subsidies and tax exemptions granted to export companies. Greater transparency is expected, due to a rational and comprehensive evaluation of this incentive policy, which could boost foreign trade over the long term. Recently, Costa Rica made progress in its candidacy to join the Pacific Alliance countries (Colombia, Chile, Mexico and Peru).

Costa Rica is the 77th largest export economy and the 84th largest importer in the world. In 2016, Costa Rica exported USD 9.5 billion and imported USD 16.1 billion, resulting in a negative trade balance of USD 6.5 billion (slight decrease compared to USD 6.8 billion in 2015). According to estimates, Costa Rica should maintain a trade deficit in the next five years. Its structural deficit is due to the fact that a large proportion of manufactured exports depend on imported inputs, and the country also relies on imports of consumer goods.

During the last five recorded years the exports of Costa Rica have decreased steadily (with the exception of 2015-2016). The top exports of Costa Rica are medical instruments (16%), bananas (9.6%, making the country the 3rd larger exporter in the world), other tropical fruits (9.8%) and integrated circuits (6.7%). This decline is partly justified by the departure of Intel. At the same time, exports of medical products and services increased in 2015, curbing the deepening of the trade deficit.

During the last five years the imports of Costa Rica have also decreased, albeit at a slower rate. The most recent imports are led by refined petroleum - which represent 8.41% of the total imports - followed by cars, which account for 4.68%.

The top export destinations of Costa Rica are the US, Guatemala, the Netherlands, Panama and Nicaragua. The top import origins are the US, China and Mexico. Costa Rica is one of the only countries in the world with a positive trade balance with China.

Lastly, in 2009, the country also signed a free trade agreement with the United States, Central America and the Dominican Republic (U.S.-Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR)), which has boosted since the trade with these areas.

Foreign Trade Indicators 20122013201420152016
Imports of Goods (million USD) 17,59118,01417,18615,50315,121
Exports of Goods (million USD) 11,43311,60311,2529,6249,634
Imports of Services (million USD) 2,0542,1002,1822,6183,207
Exports of Services (million USD) 6,2926,7376,8907,6768,288
Imports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change) 82558
Exports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change) 63509
Trade Balance (million USD) -5,348-5,559-5,329-4,628-4,421
Foreign Trade (in % of GDP) 6866676264
Imports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 3634353232
Exports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 3231323032

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

Main Partner Countries

Main Customers
(% of Exports)
United States 41.0%
Netherlands 5.8%
Panama 5.7%
Belgium 5.4%
Nicaragua 5.2%
Guatemala 5.2%
Honduras 3.4%
El Salvador 2.8%
Dominican Republic 2.6%
Mexico 2.6%
Main Suppliers
(% of Imports)
United States 37.3%
China 13.6%
Mexico 7.0%
Guatemala 2.7%
Japan 2.7%
Germany 2.5%
Brazil 2.2%
Colombia 1.9%
Panama 1.9%
Chile 1.8%

Source: Comtrade, Latest Available Data


Main Products

9.9 bn USD of products exported in 2016
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. 20.1%
Bananas, incl. plantains, fresh or dried 10.1%
Dates, figs, pineapples, avocados, guavas, mangoes and mangosteens, fresh or dried 9.2%
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 5.1%
Food preparations, n.e.s. 3.9%
Coffee, whether or not roasted or decaffeinated; coffee husks and skins; coffee substitutes containing coffee in any proportion 3.1%
Fruit juices, incl. grape must, and vegetable juices, unfermented, not containing added spirit, whether or not containing added sugar or other sweetening matter 2.9%
Insulated incl. enamelled or anodised wire, cable incl. coaxial cable and other insulated electric conductors, whether or not fitted with connectors; optical fibre cables, made-up of individually sheathed fibres, whether or not assembled with electric conductors or fitted with connectors 1.9%
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) 1.5%
Toilet paper and similar paper, cellulose wadding or webs of cellulose fibres, of a kind used for household or sanitary purposes, in rolls of a width <= 36 cm, or cut to size or shape; handkerchiefs, cleansing tissues, towels, tablecloths, serviettes, napkins for babies, tampons, bed sheets and similar household, sanitary or hospital articles, articles of apparel and clothing accessories, of paper pulp, paper, cellulose wadding or webs of cellulose fibres 1.5%
15.3 bn USD of products imported in 2016
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 7.1%
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) 5.4%
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) 3.6%
Transmission apparatus for radio-telephony, radio-telegraphy, radio-broadcasting or television, whether or not incorporating reception apparatus or sound recording or reproducing apparatus; television cameras; still image video cameras and other video camera recorders; digital cameras 2.0%
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. 1.9%
Automatic data processing machines and units thereof; magnetic or optical readers, machines for transcribing data onto data media in coded form and machines for processing such data, n.e.s. 1.9%
Motor vehicles for the transport of goods, incl. chassis with engine and cab 1.6%
Other paper and paperboard, uncoated, in rolls of a width > 36 cm or in square or rectangular sheets with one side > 36 cm and the other side > 15 cm in the unfolded state, not worked other than as specified in note 3 to this chapter, n.e.s. 1.3%
Articles of plastics and articles of other materials of heading 3901 to 3914, n.e.s. 1.2%
Articles for the conveyance or packaging of goods, of plastics; stoppers, lids, caps and other closures, of plastics 1.2%

Source: Comtrade, Latest Available Data


Main Services

12.8 bn USD of services exported in 2014
Computer and information services
Other business services
Financial services
Government services
Communications services
Cultural and recreational services
Royalties and license fees
4.1 bn USD of services imported in 2014
Other business services
Insurance services
Royalties and license fees
Communications services
Computer and information services
Government services
Financial services
Cultural and recreational services

Source: United Nations Statistics Division, Latest Available Data


Trade Compliance

International Conventions
Member of World Trade Organisation
Main International Economic Cooperation
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)
Useful Resources
Customs web site
National Organisation of Intellectual Property
The National Registry of Intellectual Property.


Learn more about How to Export to Costa Rica on, the Directory for International Trade Service Providers.

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Last Updates: November 2017