Costa Rica's President Luis Guillermo Solis (R) addresses the audience as his counterparts (L-R) from Ecuador Rafael Correa, from Dominican Republic Danilo Medina, from Bolivia Evo Morales and from Guatemala Otto Perez sit near by. Reuters/Juan Carlos Ulate
Costa Rica’s President Luis Guillermo Solis (R) addresses the audience as his counterparts (L-R) from Ecuador Rafael Correa, from Dominican Republic Danilo Medina, from Bolivia Evo Morales and from Guatemala Otto Perez sit near by, at his inauguration on May 8.

The administration of Luis Guillermo Solís is expected to turn away from a long-standing U.S.-centric foreign policy towards stronger relations with Brazil and Latin American countries, according to an International Business Times (IBT) report.

The IBT says that, Solís has made it clear that he will be moving away from the foreign policies of his predecessor, Laura Chinchilla.

“Previous Costa Rican presidents have not looked south, and I want to do it,” Solís said in an interview following his inauguration on May 8.

The United States remains Costa Rica’s largest trade partner, with 47% of the trade in 2012. Trade between the two countries grew to US$19 billion in 2013, up from a mere US$7 billion in 2005. The growth is attributed to the signing of the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) – Tratado de Libre Comercio or TLC as it is known in Costa Rica – in 2007.

Trade with other Latin American countries is pale in comparison, with only 16.5% of the country’s current trade: that includes 7.5% with Mexico and 1.7% with Brazil, two of the largest nations in Latin America, with a combined population  greater than the United States. The combined population (2012) of Brazil (198.7 million) and Mexico (120.8 million) is 319.5 million, compared to 313.9 for the United States.

The volume and importance of trade with the United States affected Costa Rica’s economy during the northern neighbour’s recession years, with the country’s GDP growth going to negative 4.6% a year after the American financial crisis. Today Costa Rica’s annual growth is back to a positive 4.19%.

The objective of Solís, says the IBT report, is to “unshackle” Costa Rica from it’s dependence on the U.S. “I want to avoid that happening again”, says Solís.

Back in 2007, Solís was opposed to the FTA, arguing that it would hurt Costa Rican producers in favour of the United States.

Today, the President is realistic, saying “there is just no way to go back now”.

According to the IBT, Solís made it clear that he does not intend to radicalize his politics, Cuba-style, as some had predicted — and hoped.

Solís has pledged not to join the Latin American bloc of radical leftist countries, of which Venezuela is arguably the leader. “I see myself as a moderate, not unlike many recent European leaders,” he said in an interview with the Miami Herald, citing Uruguay’s José Mújica and Chile’s Michelle Bachelet, both pragmatic leftists, as his inspirations.

But he intends to keep relations cordial. “Costa Rica will continue to have very good relations as it has had until now with ALBA member countries,” he said, referring to the Bolivarian Alliance for the People’s of Our Americas, a leftist bloc of countries that includes Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua.

Political analysts see in Solís a link between the socialist ideas of the hard left and the free-market policies of the United States. “I am not afraid of having good relations with many of these countries”, he said.

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