According to an article published in a Wenzhou newspaper — but almost certainly based on materials sent by the investors rather than own reporting — a private company from Wenzhou, Huage, opened the first Wenzhounese “overseas development zone” in Central America. The Huage Costa Rica Chinese Products Industrial and Commercial Park and Exhibition Centre 华格哥斯达黎加中国产品工贸园展示中心 opened in San José, capital of Costa Rica, which until 2007 maintained relations with Taiwan. The first phase of the project is a 10 thousand square meter exhibition hall, while the second phase envisages manufacturing and assembly facilities that will enable Chinese companies to receive Costa Rican certification of origin for their products, thus gaining unfettered access to American markets. The article quotes Costa Rica’s minister of foreign trade and the deputy head of the Zhejiang Province department of commerce as praising the project.
According to the article, Wenzhounese businesses have already established such “overseas development zones” in Russia, Vietnam, and Uzbekistan.
The model of wholesale/retail centres for exhibiting Chinese products and serving as regional hubs of their distribution is familiar from Eastern Europe and has gained some Chinese government support. What is interesting here is the borrowing of the term “overseas development zone,” familiar from state-to-state projects in Africa and elsewhere, to lend legitimacy to private trade initiatives, albeit possibly with a minor assembly component.
The choice of Costa Rica probably has to do with a relatively large recent Chinese immigrant population, but it is likely also a choice encouraged by the Chinese government as a reward for switching diplomatic relations.