A delegation headed by Ecuador trade minister Pablo Campana is in Washington, D.C. this week to discuss trade and investment issues with members of the U.S. Council of Commerce and Investments. It will be the first meeting of its kind in more than nine years.
“We have some sensitive issues to settle with the U.S.,” Campana says. “Many of them have gone unresolved for years and have adversely affected the commercial relationship between the two countries. Finding resolutions is crucial.”
Among the key issues to be discussed are the protection of intellectual property rights, which the U.S. claims Ecuador fails to fully enforce, the treatment of U.S. companies doing business in Ecuador and terms and conditions of foreign investments.
The sales of counterfeit music and movie CDs and DVDs has been a bone of contention for years with U.S. trade officials. The practice is widespread in Latin America, particularly in Ecuador, Colombia and Peru, and provides employment for tens-of-thousands in Ecuador.
The U.S. also wants to revise the dispute resolution process between U.S. companies and Ecuadorian authorities and negotiate new terms for investment money entering and leaving Ecuador from the U.S. Also on the agenda, is the ongoing legal battle between Chevron Oil and indigenous villagers in the Amazon who claim damages from 1970s and 1980s oil production.
Among other issues to be discussed, according to Campana, are concerns by the U.S. that some Ecuadorian industries receive preferential treatment in competition with U.S. companies. Ecuador has long-insisted on protecting small, often craft-related businesses, that it says cannot compete against large, multi-national companies.
Campana says a focus of the talks is to increase U.S. investment in Ecuador. “Historically, some of our policies have discouraged foreign investment and we want to make changes that create a better investment environment,” he says, adding that in 2017, U.S. interests invested only $35 million in Ecuador compared to $2.1 billion in Colombia. “Obviously, this is an area where we think we can make major progress.”
In addition to Campana and members of his staff, the Ecuadorian delegation to the talks includes 22 private sector representatives, including directors of the U.S.-Ecuador Chamber of Commerce and the Quito and Guayaquil Chambers of Commerce.