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Cablegate: Commission of Eminent Persons Meets with President

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 SAN JOSE 001819

SIPDIS

WHA/CEN
EB FOR WCRAFT, BMANOGUE
E FOR DEDWARDS
WHA FOR WMIELE
WHA/EPSC FOR KURS, LGUMBINER
H FOR JHAGAN
STATE PASS TO USTR FOR RVARGO, CPADILLA, AMALITO

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ETRD ECPS ECON PREL PGOV SOCI CS
SUBJECT: COMMISSION OF EMINENT PERSONS MEETS WITH PRESIDENT
PACHECO

REF: SAN JOSE 01639

1. Summary. On August 8, 2005 the five-member Commission
of Eminent Persons met with President Pacheco to discuss
the status of their review of the text of the U.S.-Central
American-Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-
DR). Franklin Chang, head of the Commission, stated that
they have already started interviews with those who are in
favor of the agreement and those who are not. The
Commission also presented its plan to complete their work,
including the areas in which it will focus. Chang said
that there is no need to request an extension of the 60-day
goal the President set to complete the Commission's work
and submit its report. End Summary

2. According to Chang, it is not a goal of the Commission
to provide a definitive recommendation regarding whether or
not to approve CAFTA-DR because that is the job of the
Legislative Assembly deputies (once the President sends it
to them). "We want to hear both sides ... the report will
not be a yes or no to CAFTA-DR. We will investigate
comments about the weaknesses and strengths for which the
country should prepare itself," commented Chang.

3. Another Commission member, Gabriel Macaya, added that
they will not examine the agreement chapter by chapter, but
will perform a general analysis of CAFTA-DR, concentrating
on principal topics. The Commission has identified
thirteen topics of the agreement in which it will focus:
(1) to determine if the document (CAFTA-DR) is a treaty or
agreement based on Costa Rican law, (2) format and criteria
that will be used to write the report, (3) conflict
resolution, (4) intellectual property rights, (5) patents,
(6) generic drugs, (7) protection of the environment, (8)
telecommunications, (9) insurance, (10) labor, (11) small
and medium businesses, (12) review of the general impact of
the trade agreement, and (13) the complementary agenda.

4. Since starting their work on July 16, 2005 (reftel),
the Commission has met on eight occasions, some of them via
digital video conference, which was necessary due to
Chang's personal and work commitments in the U.S. The
Commission has met with at least four persons, some for and
some against the agreement, to investigate their views.
However, the Commission members would not reveal with whom
they met. They did confirm that they have not met with any
Costa Rican ex-negotiators of the agreement, all of whom
have left the Ministry of Foreign Trade (COMEX) since the
agreement was signed last year. However, they acknowledged
using, as a tool in their evaluation, the book written by
Anabel Gonzalez, the ex-lead negotiator, entitled "Legal
Studies of CAFTA-DR," among other texts.

5. The Commission members agreed that there is "still much
work to do" and expressed the desire to involve interested
Costa Ricans. "We want to count on, as much as possible,
the participation of all Costa Ricans, to guarantee an open
and transparent process," Chang assured. To encourage
input from citizens, the Commission has published an email
address to which anyone can send their comments about CAFTA-
DR (spoveda@cariari.ucr.ac.cr).

6. The Commission plans to continue their work and set a
goal to produce a first draft by August 31, 2005, and the
final report submitted to the President by September 16,
2005. "The time is coming in which we will deliver our
report to the President, and he will know what to do with
it," said Chang.

--------------------------------------------- --------
INTERVIEW WITH ONE COMMISSION MEMBER - ALVAR ANTILLON
--------------------------------------------- --------

7. The August 9, 2005 "La Nacion" article covering the
above meeting also included an interview of one of the
Commission Members, Alvar Antillon, a lawyer and expert in
international agreements, and currently an adviser to the
Foreign Affairs Minister. Antillon started the interview by
stating that with respect to his work on the Commission of
Eminent Persons, he refuses to take a partisan attitude.
However, he admitted to the desire to be a Legislative
Assembly member candidate for the left-leaning Citizens'
Action Party (PAC) in the upcoming elections (February
2006). The official position of PAC is that the agreement
should not be passed in its current form but should be
renegotiated.
8. When asked about how he could guarantee his objectivity
as a member of this Commission given his self-proclaimed
ties to PAC, Antillon responded, "I have the position of a
member of the group of eminent persons, that is to say, at
the heart of my work is the examination of what is best for
Costa Rica, nothing else." He interrupts the interviewer's
next question by stating that if you assume that I "will
have a partisan interest above the good of Costa Rica, you
are mistaken." He further states, "You should ask these
questions to the other members of the Commission, because
none of them have denied their relationship with Oscar Arias
(pro-CAFTA-DR presidential candidate). This group was
chosen because of their independence, you have to leave it
there and not look for other things."
KAPLAN

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