Ecuador hopes to sign a trade agreement with the European Union by early 2014, President Rafael Correa said Friday, saying that it would not lead to an outright free trade pact.
“We will negotiate and seek to sign an accord with the European Union, but not at any price,” the president said in an interview with La Voz de Arenillas radio in Ecuador.
Correa in May 2009 called off talks with the EU, saying that the trade deal then being proposed was in fact a free trade agreement despite “whatever pretty name” the Brussels-based bloc was putting on it.
Correa has declared his opposition to free trade pacts, arguing that they harm the development of local industry. Ecuador is the world’s biggest banana exporter and the EU is one of its top markets.
“We hope to reach an agreement by the beginning of next year,” he said, noting that his country had “red lines” on public spending. Ecuador spends at least $5 billion to help small- and medium-sized businesses.
Since then, Correa has been engaged in a terminology dispute with some left-wing critics who claim that the deal he seeks with the EU is, fact, a free trade agreement. “He pretends this is somehow different than the free trade agreements he opposed when he came into office,” says Paúl Ramirez, member of the People’s Solidarity movement. “Actually, it’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing.”