The U.S. Congress allowed the Andean Trade Preference agreement with Ecuador to expire on Wednesday.
Ecuador, which angered U.S. lawmakers by flirting with offering asylum to former U.S. spy agency contractor Edward Snowden, has received duty-free treatment for many of its goods since 1991 under the Andean program.
After a senior U.S. lawmaker threatened Congress would revoke the trade benefits if Ecuador took in Snowden, who is wanted by the United States for revealing details of its intelligence programs, Ecuador responded by renouncing the benefits.
In 2012, Ecuador exported $5.4 billion worth of oil, $166 million of cut flowers, $122 million of fruits and vegetables and $80 million of tuna to the U.S. under the trade program. Economists agree that the country will have no trouble selling its oil but say the end of preferences could hurt flower and vegetable exports.
Talks are underway to continue some of the trade benefits under the Generalized System of Preferences, or GSP. For products that are not covered by GSP, the Ecuadorian government has promised to make up the difference to industries affected by higher export costs.
The Andean trade program originally also included Bolivia, Colombia and Peru. But Bolivia was kicked out a few years ago when Washington determined it was no longer cooperating in its war on drugs. Colombia and Peru now have free-trade agreements with the United States and no longer need the program.
What’s the world’s biggest bug?
In case you wondered, it’s the Titan beetle which makes its home in the rain forests of Ecuador, Peru, Venezuela and Colombia. The largest Titan ever found measured 18 centimeters, or about seven inches, in length. In the larvael stage, the insect measures as much as 30 centimeters. It’s also noted for its strength and its over-sized jaws can break a pencil.
The Titan lives in dead trees and, curiously, the male of the species does not eat during its adult life. When it reaches maturity it begins its life mission, to find a female and fertilize her eggs.
On its mating journey, the male must climb to higher tree elevations and then jump from branch to branch. The Titan’s defense mechanism is a strange whistle and occasionally a hiss. It can also bite attackers with its large jaws.
H1N1 virus affects Andean provinces
The H1N1 Influenza A virus has killed 11 and infected 137 in Ecuador, mostly in the central Andean province of Chimborazo. At least one case has been reported in 14 of Ecuador’s 24 provinces, according to the Ministry of Public Health.
The latest report said that four deaths were registered in Chimborazo, while Pichincha province, also heavily affected, has seen 36 new cases since early July.
“These figures fall within the range expected by the Pan American Health Organization,” said Norma Armas, national undersecretary of Public Health Monitoring.
She added the Ministry of Public Health has been monitoring the spread of the disease on a daily basis since March.
Last week, the health ministry banned the over-the-counter sale of cold remedies, anti-inflammatories and pain-relief remedies that can mask the symptoms of H1N1.
Tungurahua continues to sputter
The Tungurahua volcano continues to send smoke clouds high into the atmopshere although no intensification has been observed since a number of large explosions last weekend.
Ecuador’s Institute for Geophysics reports that small explosions continue at the 5,016 foot volcano and small pyroclastic flows continue down the mountain’s flanks. Ash and gas emission are reaching an altitude of 1.5 kilometes above the cráter, much lower than the five kilometer heights of two weeks ago.
Aviation authorities continue to monitor the volcano for possible air traffic disruptions but say that as of Tuesday, all flights were proceding on schedule.
Volcanologists consider Tungurahua one of the world’s ten most dangerous volcanos, noting that more than 35,000 people live within the danger zone of a possible eruption. All the communities below the volcano, including Baños, a town of 18,000, are built on lava flows previous eruptions.
Photo caption: Big bug