Following preliminary negotiations between Ecuador and the U.S., the office of U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) has listed 17 “areas of concern” in Ecuador’s commercial and trade practices.
According to U.S. ambassador in Ecuador, Todd Chapman, the issues must be resolved before the two countries can come to a final trade agreement. “It may not be necessary for all the points to be resolved in favor of the U.S., but an understanding must be reached for negotiations to move forward,” he said, calling most of the issues “irritants.”
Among the trade barriers listed by the USTR was Ecuador’s food labeling requirement that products show “high,” “medium,” and “low” levels of sugar, fat and salt content. USTR says that such labeling is “unnecessary and increases manufacturing costs.”
Another sticking point in the negotiations is what USTR calls Ecuador’s “lax enforcement” of international intellectual property laws, particularly in the area of the unlicensed reproduction and sale of DVDs and CDs. As it has been for years, Ecuador was recently included on the annual U.S. “Black List” of countries violating intellectual property rights. This list includes most Latin American countries, including Chile, Argentina, Peru and Colombia.
Among other barriers USTR lists as impediments to a trade agreement are import quotas for such items as cell phones and automobiles; import restrictions and high shipping costs for purchases from online shopping services; and tariffs and taxes on some imported products.
According to Christian Espinosa, foreign trade consultant and past president of Ecuador’s Federation of Exporters, most of the 17 barriers listed by USTR have existed for years. “If Ecuador wants to join the international commercial community it must resolve these problems,” he says. “We have made significant progress since the change of government, but more needs to be done to signal to the world that we want to participate in the open trade market.”