The Benefits of Free Trade Agreements

The issue has long been settled, though the vote was close, the Costa Rican public approved and that was that. I admit to being a little uninformed in an important area, one which Expatcostarica excels, to whit, cell phones. I don’t have one, and don’t really plan on getting one. The only use I have for one personally is as a walkie talkie when I need to meet someone and we are both on the move. I am not very fond of the telephone in my house, since it brings bad news more often than good, and when I am away from home, I know I won’t be receiving calls from anybody desperately needing a loan.

Having typed all that, I guess I should come to the point. The TLC/CAFTA agreement was anticipated with great, uh… anticipation by cell phone users, as far as I can tell. The idea of not having to deal with ICE seemed to be quite the selling point among Gringos I knew. I don’t really know how that’s turned out, as a non user, except that incoming calls I receive aren’t noticeably better and phones getting stolen seems to be an even bigger problem than bad reception.

On the other hand, there’s one part of the TLC/CAFTA I recently got to experience up close and personal, and that was when I tried to buy a generic drug. All of a sudden, the generic that was 40% cheaper than the brand name had disappeared from the inventories of every farmacia I visited. Like magic, it was. So I did what I thought best, and switched to an older, almost identical medicine that was past patent expiration. I doubt my health will suffer too much, if at all, other than the irritation I felt knowing that ‘Big Pharma’ had won and I had lost.

What I should have done is catch a bus and watch all the teenage girls texting on their cell phones. I would have gotten a sense of proportion and realized that over-paying for the medicine is a small price to pay compared to the wonderful information that was undoubtedly being interchanged via text messages.

I have already admitted I know nothing of the improvements that TLC/CAFTA has brought. My own belief, then and now, is that ‘Free Trade’ is like the Easter Bunny or Santa Claus. Nice ideas that just don’t exist except in the imagination. One thing I do know, and wish I could convey to the Costa Rican voting public is that when a sixth grader and a kindergartner make some kind of trade, the sixth grader usually comes away with the best of the deal. I leave it to you to decide if Costa Rica is the sixth grader or the kindergartner.

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  1. I suspect you may well be right. But, what still puzzles me is how can any multi-national corporation be so greedy as to think they can realistically improve their bottom line by exploiting a tiny nation whose total population is only around four million? Think about how much any of them (cell phone provider, internet service provider, electric, whatever) would have to pay out up front, just to acquire the rights, then install their staff and their own infrastructure. Now, put that number up against any potential profit. Not a very pretty picture, imho.

  2. We also got a big taste of disappearing drugs recently when Carol's generic pantoprazol went by the wayside, only to be replaced by name brand Zoltum at twice the price. As to the Free Trade Agreement, my understanding is that my old Ernie Banks card is of equal value as your old Willie Mays card which means we can swap straight up if we should so choose. Otherwise, the whole thing remains a big mystery to me. And we don't have a cell phone either.