QCOSTARICA (Reuters) China and Costa Rica have signed a partnership agreement that could give Chinese firms a foothold in the country, the Costa Rican government said in a statement on Tuesday, another sign of expanding Chinese influence in Central America.

The statement, sent from China, said that during a trip to Beijing, Costa Rican President Luis Guillermo Solis said the country aspires to become a “permanent, long-term partner” with China, and will explore the possibility of creating a “Special Economic Zone” for Chinese companies to operate in Costa Rica.

He gave few details, but said cars and solar panels could eventually be produced in the zone. The two countries will carry out a feasibility study for the zone, which will be completed by the end of October 2015, he added.

The announcement of the partnership comes less than a month after work began on another Chinese-led project in the region. In Nicaragua, a proposed US$50 billion waterway, set to rival the Panama Canal, is backed by the Hong Kong-based HK Nicaragua Canal Development Investment Co Ltd, or HKND Group.

The trip was the Costa Rican president’s first official visit to China following his election last year. In 2007, Costa Rica became the only country in Central America to recognize Beijing over Taiwan.



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