Costa Rica’s former minister of foreign trade talks free trade


Leeks Lim/Daily Senior Staffer

Alberto Trejos, Costa Rica’s former minister of foreign trade, discusses the importance of trade agreements at a Political Union event Wednesday. Trejos said trade agreements are the most binding type of international legislation.

Gabby Grossman, Reporter

Former Northwestern Prof. Alberto Trejos, Costa Rica’s former minister of foreign trade, stressed the importance of trade agreements in globalization, economic growth and international politics during a talk Wednesday.

About 15 people attended the event at the Buffett Institute for Global Studies, which was hosted by Political Union. During his talk, Trejos said trade agreements are the most binding type of international legislation because trade policies rely heavily on tangible losses and benefits to a country.

“This logic of gain theory makes trade agreements binding in the sense that governments must obey them,” Trejos said. “Trade is the only language that we have right now that countries can use to make law today.”

Trejos discussed the relationship between developing countries and open economies. Without trade agreements, countries with closed economies are barring certain imports, which limits that country’s exports, he said.

He emphasized the need for economic diversification in smaller countries such as Costa Rica, whose primary exports comprised only bananas and coffee before the Central American Free Trade Agreement agreement in 2005. CAFTA is a free-trade agreement between the U.S. and developing countries in Latin America, including Costa Rica.

After the agreement, Costa Rica’s export economy expanded to include medical technology and computer goods, Trejos said.

Costa Rica could not achieve this diversification without a free-trade agreement with larger countries, Trejos said. It’s important to remember in those negotiations, more powerful countries often need smaller countries just as much, he said.

The importance of trade agreements reaches beyond just economics, as they also influence international politics, such as environmental policy, he said.

“The way to have a global agreement on carbon emissions is to make it part of a trade deal rather than a stand-alone agreement,” Trejos said. “If it stands alone, then my punishment to you for polluting is that I get to pollute, too. And that’s ridiculous.”

Sabrina Williams, co-president of Political Union, said the group invited Trejos because of his ability to explain trade deals in the context of other industries, such as the environmental industry.

“I hope students got an appreciation for how detailed these trade agreements are and how many industries are involved in them,” the Weinberg junior said.

Other students said they attended the event to get valuable insight from someone with years of experience.

Weinberg junior Max Rowe said he came for the opportunity to talk to someone with hands-on experience in the economics field.

“Trejos is, in terms of economic policy, one of the highest ranking officials we’ve ever had come to NU,” Rowe said. “It was really cool to see someone that smart, that knowledgeable and with that much real-world experience speak here.”

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