Policy & History

U.S.-Costa Rica Relations

The United States established diplomatic relations with Costa Rica in 1851, following its independence from Spain and the later dissolution of a federation of Central American states. The United States and Costa Rica have a history of close and friendly relations based on mutual respect for democratic freedoms, free trade, and other shared values. Costa Rica’s own history and record on the environment, human rights, and advocacy for the peaceful settlement of disputes give it a weight in world affairs far beyond its size, and Costa Rica and the United States often share similar positions (votes) in international fora. The United States and Costa Rica enjoy robust bilateral law enforcement and security cooperation, and have signed a maritime cooperation agreement that facilitates narcotics seizures, illegal migrant rescues, illegal fishing seizures, and search-and-rescue missions.

The United States and Costa Rica share a strong commitment to working to promote climate change mitigation and adaptation, as well as preserving Costa Rica’s important and rich biological diversity. The U.S. and Costa Rican governments, the Central Bank of Costa Rica, and The Nature Conservancy have concluded agreements that provide funding for the conservation, restoration, and protection of tropical forests.

It is estimated that approximately 100,000 private American citizens, including many retirees, reside in the country and more than a million American citizens visit Costa Rica annually.

U.S. Assistance to Costa Rica

U.S. diplomatic engagement and foreign assistance in Central America is guided by the U.S. Strategy for Engagement in Central America (Strategy). In 2015, the United States announced the Strategy, a comprehensive and robust partnership with Central American governments to promote an economically integrated Central America that is fully democratic; provides economic opportunities to its people; enjoys more accountable, transparent, and effective public institutions; and ensures a safe environment for its citizens. The Strategy focuses on three overarching lines of action: 1) enhancing citizen security; 2) promoting good governance; and 3) promoting prosperity and regional economic integration. The Strategy is a multi-year effort for all seven Central American countries that builds off of previous successful partnerships and programs in the region.

The United States is working hand-in-hand with a wide range of Costa Rican government agencies and non-governmental organizations to secure Costa Rica’s borders, professionalize its police, strengthen its judicial sector, improve its corrections system, and empower at-risk youth. Peace Corps volunteers work in economic development, education, and youth empowerment programs, and U. S. Embassy programs promote entrepreneurship, economic inclusion, renewable energy, and energy efficiency.

Bilateral Economic Relations

The United States and Costa Rica are parties to the U.S.-Central America-Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR), which aims to facilitate trade and investment and further regional integration by eliminating tariffs, opening markets, reducing barriers to services, and promoting transparency. CAFTA-DR contains a chapter on investment similar to a bilateral investment treaty with the United States.

The United States is Costa Rica’s largest trading partner, accounting for over half of Costa Rica’s exports, imports, and tourism, and foreign direct investment. U.S. exports to Costa Rica include automotive parts and supplies, renewable energy, franchises, hotel and restaurant equipment, healthcare products, and construction equipment. U.S. imports from Costa Rica include medical devices, pineapples, bananas, and coffee.

The Integrated Country Strategy (ICS)

The Integrated Country Strategy (ICS) is the four-year strategy that articulates the U.S. priorities in a given country and is led by the Chief of Mission. The ICS develops a common set of Mission goals and objectives through a coordinated and collaborative planning effort among Department of State and other U.S. government agencies with in-country programming. Higher-level planning documents and strategies, such as the National Security Strategy, the State-USAID Joint Strategic Plan, and Department regional and functional bureau strategies inform the ICS. Once completed, the ICS frames and informs the Embassy’s activities and outreach in Costa Rica.

More Information visit the Integrated Country Strategy Site (Pdf-490Kb)

Costa Rica’s Membership in International Organizations

Costa Rica and the United States belong to a number of the same international organizations, including the United Nations, Organization of American States, International Monetary Fund, World Bank, and World Trade Organization.

Bilateral Representation

Ambassador Cynthia A. Telles; other principal embassy officials are listed in the Department’s Key Officers List.

Costa Rica maintains an embassy in the United States at 2114 S Street NW, Washington, DC 20008 (tel. 202-480-2200).