Known as the 'Switzerland of Central America' because of its political stability and its relative economic prosperity, Costa Rica has for many years had good diplomatic and trade relations with Switzerland.
Bilateral relations Switzerland–Costa Rica
Key aspects of diplomatic relations
Together with Costa Rica, Liechtenstein, Jordan and Singapore, Switzerland is part of the 'Small Five', a group at the UN headquarters in New York which advocates shared values and ideas, including an initiative to reform the Security Council and its working methods. Before Switzerland joined the UN, it developed together with Costa Rica various initiatives aimed at enhancing international law, including the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture and initiatives related to small arms and human security.
Costa Rica is Switzerland's second largest trading partner in Central America. In 2016, Switzerland imported goods worth CHF 102 million from Costa Rica, primarily agricultural products and optical and medical devices. Swiss exports to Costa Rica – mainly pharmaceutical products, optical and medical devices, and watches – amounted to CHF 171 million. At the end of 2015, direct investment from Switzerland in Costa Rica stood at CHF 647 million, and Swiss companies employed about 2,000 people in the country.
In 2000, Switzerland and Costa Rica signed an investment protection agreement setting out the conditions for economic cooperation between the two countries. The agreement entered into force in 2002, after both countries had ratified it. A double taxation agreement initialled in March 2006 still has to be renegotiated, as Costa Rica stated that it wants to have the provision on mutual assistance in tax matters adapted to the OECD standard. In 2014 a free trade agreement came into force between EFTA and the Central American States, which comprise Guatemala, Panama and Costa Rica.
Cooperation in education, research and innovation
Scholars and artists from Costa Rica can apply to the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI) for a Swiss Government Excellence Scholarship.
In February 2014, Costa Rica and CERN signed an agreement to facilitate scientific cooperation and access to grants for students and researchers. Costa Rica hopes that this agreement will strengthen academic exchanges between public universities and CERN, give Costa Rican students, engineers and scientists better access to internships, courses and training at CERN and offer them the opportunity to apply for scientific research grants.
Swiss nationals in Costa Rica
At the end of 2016 there were 1,757 Swiss nationals living in Costa Rica.
History of bilateral relations
Switzerland recognised the Republic of Costa Rica immediately following its independence. In 1912, the Federal Council appointed an honorary consul. In 1957 the two countries established diplomatic relations and Switzerland upgraded its representation to the level of consulate general. In 1967, Switzerland opened an embassy in San José. Costa Rica has maintained an embassy in Bern since 1981.
In the 19th century Costa Rica became a destination for Swiss emigrants. Swiss companies built up contacts in search of new export opportunities. From 1890 onwards, several Swiss nationals, including Henri François Pittier, played an important role in the development of the Costa Rican education system. One of Costa Rica's districts is called 'La Suiza' (Switzerland). During the Second World War, Switzerland represented the interests of Costa Rica in Germany, Belgium, France and Czechoslovakia.