Almost given up for dead two months ago, Ecuador and the European Union signed a trade agreement Thursday that opens both markets to hundreds of agricultural and manufactured goods.
Vice President Jorge Glas led the Ecuadorian delegation at the Brussels signing ceremony that was also attended by representatives from Peru and Colombia.
The agreement followed weeks of intense negotiations in which Ecuador made a number of concessions including agreeing to strengthen intellectual property protection and eliminating special taxes and conditions on imports. It is similar to those already in effect between the EU and Peru and Colombia, although it provides some additional protections for what the Ecuadorian government considers vulnerable economic sectors.
The deal covers hundreds of products and will lead to lower prices for Ecuadorian consumers on such manufactured goods as cars, electronics, perfumes, clothing and liquor. For Ecuador, the deal provides important preferential treatment on agricultural and seafood products, including bananas, guavas, mangos, pineapples, tuna and shrimp.
According to industry representatives, the agreement could spur a boom in Ecuadorian coffee and cocoa production, products that are winning international awards for their quality.
Although tariffs will be eliminated January 1, 2017 on some products, other tariff and tax reductions will be reduced over a multi-year period.
The agreement must still be approved by Ecuador’s National Assembly and the governments of individual EU countries. EU trade representatives said approval should be given by late November or early December.
Ecuador business organization applauded the deal, saying it will provide employment and open more products to world markets.