Foreign investment, which is welcomed in Costa Rica, is concentrated in manufacturing (45%) and agriculture (25%, mainly banana and coffee interests). Other investments are placed in the railways, tobacco, communications, airlines, government bonds, and real estate. The US, Costa Rica's major foreign investor (78% in 1998), has interests chiefly in computer chip manufacturing, agriculture, petroleum refining, and distribution, utilities, cement, and fertilizers. The continued high level of trade with the US has been conducive to private foreign investment, especially in export industries. Investment incentives include constitutional equal treatment guarantees and free trade zones. Foreign direct investment in Costa Rica in 1998 was $530 million, or 5% of GDP.
Liberalization of Costa Rica's trade and investment regimes, resolution of the internal debt problem, and passage of legislation expanding private sector investment in energy, telecommunications, roads, ports, and airports have boosted opportunities for foreign and local investors and increase Costa Rica's properity. In 1998, the Public Concessions Law defined the ways in which foreigners could invest in Costa Rica's public sector. Still, in the energy sector, foreign ownership may not exceed 65%, and a long list of activities are reserved for the state. The government had no privatization programs in 1999, but in 2000 investment was promoted by the government in the electricity and telecommunications parastatals.
Costa Rica has sought to widen its economic and diplomatic ties, including outside the region. Costa Rica has maintained connections with the US, EU, along with the other Central American states, through periodic ministerial consultations. The country is a founding member of the WTO and has actively participated in the follow-up to the Summit of the Americas to bring about the Free Trade Area of the Aemericas by the year 2005.