Although Ecuador is eager to negotiate a trade agreement with the U.S., several obstacles stand in the way, according to U.S. ambassador to Ecuador Todd Chapman.
Ecuador’s Ministry of Foreign Trade announced in January that it is pursuing an agreement with the U.S. similar to the one signed two years ago with the European Union (EU). The EU agreement covers a large number of products agreed to by both parties, but is not a comprehensive free trade deal, the ministry says.
“The U.S. government is open to a bilateral agreement with Ecuador and we have hopes that one can be worked out,” Chapman says. “The relationship between our two countries has improved over the last year and we are actively working on several trade problem areas.”
Among the obstacles, according to Chapman, are duties that Ecuador applies to a long list of imports. “The U.S. opposes any trade barrier that impedes a healthy trading relationship,” he says. Although many import duties and fees have been reduced or eliminated since 2016, Ecuador imposed a program of new ones at the beginning of 2018.
Among other issues to be resolved, according to Chapman, are the handling of lawsuits involving U.S. companies, and the protection of intellectual property rights for software, music and movies. “I was in Manta over the weekend and visited a store where I could buy pirated copies of movies and music for a dollar,” he said. “This is serious problem throughout Latin America that has to be resolved.”
On the issue of fighting drug trafficking near Ecuador’s border with Colombia, Chapman said the U.S. is actively supporting Ecuador’s law enforcement and military efforts. “This week, we are providing police training in Guayaquil and are actively working with Ecuador’s military command to provide intelligence information and other assistance,” he said.
“We understand this is a serious concern due drug activity in Colombia and we have a strong interest in keeping it out of Ecuador,” he added.