TBY talks to Manuel Antonio González Sanz, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Worship of Costa Rica, on forging renewable ties between the Gulf and Caribbean, triangular cooperation, and how to improve connectivity.

Manuel Antonio González Sanz
Manuel Antonio González Sanz was appointed as Minister of Foreign Affairs and Worship in May 2014. He was previously Minister of Foreign Trade (2004-2006), Ambassador to the UN and its specialized organizations in Geneva, and Special Advisor to the Vice President of Costa Rica. Minister González taught corporate law and securities at both the law and business schools of the University of Costa Rica and is a partner at one of the largest and oldest law firms in Central America, as well as having published numerous articles on financial, trade, and legal issues.

What do you see as your primary point of collaboration with the international community?

We want to be the UAE's main partner in Central America and the Caribbean. Renewable energy is one of the aspects that we have discussed, unsurprisingly with Costa Rica's notoriety for being an eco-friendly country and producing 99% of its electricity from renewable sources. That is a valuable experience that we can share with the other countries. We want to work in bilateral cooperation on projects such as this, but also triangular cooperation, which is when two countries put capital and expertise together to help a third country. We have experience in doing projects like this with Spain and Germany. Broadly speaking, we want Costa Rica to become a destination for the development of good practices and give recommendations to other countries on how to achieve their respective aims. We started investing in renewable energy 60 years ago and have plenty of experience, particularly in hydro, which represents between 80-90% of our energy mix. Building this infrastructure is not done overnight, but leveraging our experience can help other countries meet their national commitments.

Where else does potential lie to strengthen the UAE and Costa Rica's bilateral relations?

We are trying to become more of a knowledge-based economy. We have the potential and the skills to do that, but we need to work in collaboration with other countries to strengthen what we already have. There is a lot of potential for investments from the UAE to go to Costa Rica in the services, real estate, or even agriculture sector. Likewise, a lot of goods come to this part of the world, bringing forth multiple opportunities in the field of logistics. It is our job as the government to open those paths for the private sector.

How can Costa Rica work to help the region strengthen its food security?

The main challenge is how to get the goods here on time. Connectivity wise, we have difficulties without direct flights and it takes the shipping industry two to three weeks to ship food products here. We have to improve that to firstly increase our own competitiveness, and also to develop the volume. Our quality is high, but we have to improve connectivity. We are still awaiting an Emirates flight to Panama or Costa Rica, which is being negotiated. This would be a great opportunity for our goods to be exported there.