Costa Rica, Mexico Meet To Talk Free-Trade Pact

ALLEGATIONS of ``milk piracy'' are not enough to sour feelings between Mexican and Costa Rican free-trade negotiators. For Mexico, the Costa Rican talks are one of several free-trade negotiations under way with southern neighbors, including talks last December with Venezuela and Colombia.

Last week, Mexican milk producers tried to put the negotiations out to pasture, at least temporarily, when the Costa Rican Commerce Minister Roberto Rojas and his Mexican counterpart met here. The Mexican producers claimed that after a joint-venture deal fell apart, a Costa Rican milk producer went ahead and produced milk under the Mexican brand name.

But Mr. Rojas described the incident as a ``problem of communication'' between company lawyers and said it had been resolved. The milk controversy was not addressed in the talks, Rojas said, but there were advances made on intellectual property rights, agricultural tariffs, and rules of origin. Costa Rican products shipped to Mexico will be allowed to gradually increase their content of Mexican parts or prime material, he said.

And Rojas signaled that the talks may be nearing the ``last stage.'' Next week, Mexican Commerce Minister Jaime Jose Serra Puche will fly to Costa Rica to continue the negotiations. Rojas calls a free trade pact with Mexico ``a step in the direction'' of joining the North American Free Trade Agreement between the United States, Canada, and Mexico.

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