Despite repeated assurances to the contrary, the government’s chances of signing a trade agreement with the European Union in 2016 look increasingly less likely. According to several industries, reaching an agreement by the end of December is critical since temporary trade preferences on a number of Ecuadorian exports end then.
Vice President Jorge Glas arrived in Europe yesterday to lobby several governments to give priority to the trade agreement. Along with Foreign Trade Minister Juan Carlos Cassinelli, he plans trade discussions with representatives from Poland, Lithuania, Finland, Sweden and Denmark, Spain, France, Switzerland and Belgium.
Glas wants to move discussion of the trade deal at the monthly EU Council meeting from October to September.
Casinnelli admits that there are a number of unresolved issues in trade talks that must be settled before an agreement can be reached. “We are putting an emphasis this week on discussing these points with several EU member nations but understand that we are under time pressure,” he said.
According to Christoph Saurenbach, head of the Commercial and Economic Section of the EU, there are three main issues to settle. The first is Ecuador’s import quota on automobiles. The second is the country’s import surcharges of as much as 40% on a wide variety of products. The third is what Saurenbach calls an “arbitrary” import ban on cheese and butter as well as barriers to other agricultural products.
Saurenbach claims that import quotas are prohibited under World Trade Organization (WTO) rules. “We will not allow an exception to these rules,” he said.
Casinnelli says that the Ecuadorian government will review “the impact of each outstanding issue” in coming days.
Ecuador’s banana producers say that if a final agreement is not reached by the end of the year, trade preferences with the EU will end and the industry will suffer large loses.