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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 period (exports reached USD 11,3 billion in 2012). 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 (imports reached USD 17.5 billion in 2012). 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 20112012201320142015
Imports of Goods (million USD) 16,22017,59118,01417,18615,503
Exports of Goods (million USD) 10,40811,43311,60311,2529,624
Imports of Services (million USD) 1,7922,0542,1002,1822,618
Exports of Services (million USD) 5,4926,2926,7376,8907,676
Imports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change) 118236
Exports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change) 76332
Trade Balance (million USD) -5,027-5,348-5,559-5,289-5,167
Foreign Trade (in % of GDP) 6968666763
Imports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 3736343532
Exports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 3332313231

Source: WTO – World Trade Organisation ; World Bank - 2016.

Main Partner Countries

Main Customers
(% of Exports)
United States 40.8%
Panama 5.8%
Guatemala 5.5%
Nicaragua 5.5%
Netherlands 4.6%
Belgium 4.5%
Honduras 3.5%
El Salvador 3.0%
Dominican Republic 2.8%
Mexico 2.5%
Main Suppliers
(% of Imports)
United States 39.8%
China 12.6%
Mexico 7.4%
Japan 2.7%
Guatemala 2.6%
South Korea 2.5%
Germany 2.4%
Colombia 2.0%
Brazil 1.9%
Panama 1.8%

Source: Comtrade, Last Available Data


Main Products

9.6 bn USD of products exported in 2015
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. 17.7%
Bananas, incl. plantains, fresh or dried 8.7%
Dates, figs, pineapples, avocados, guavas, mangoes and mangosteens, fresh or dried 8.6%
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 4.4%
Food preparations, n.e.s. 4.2%
Coffee, whether or not roasted or decaffeinated; coffee husks and skins; coffee substitutes containing coffee in any proportion 3.2%
Fruit juices, incl. grape must, and vegetable juices, unfermented, not containing added spirit, whether or not containing added sugar or other sweetening matter 2.0%
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 2.0%
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 1.6%
New pneumatic tyres, of rubber 1.6%
15.5 bn USD of products imported in 2015
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 8.0%
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) 4.6%
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) 3.3%
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 2.5%
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. 1.8%
Electrical apparatus for line telephony or line telegraphy, incl. line telephone sets with cordless handsets and telecommunication apparatus for carrier-current line systems or for digital line systems; videophones; parts thereof 1.8%
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. 1.7%
Motor vehicles for the transport of goods, incl. chassis with engine and cab 1.4%
Containers, incl. containers for the transport of fluids, specially designed and equipped for carriage by one or more modes of transport 1.3%
Articles for the conveyance or packaging of goods, of plastics; stoppers, lids, caps and other closures, of plastics 1.2%

Source: Comtrade, Last 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, Last 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: June 2017