Lasso pushes free trade and investments in Beijing visit, defends strengthening Chinese ties
President Guillermo Lasso hit the ground running on his arrival in China this week, attending a series of meetings and visiting with Ecuador’s only entrant in the Winter Olympics.
On Thursday and Friday, he and his advisors met with corporate and government officials to discuss investment opportunities, debt restructuring and trade agreements. Before attending the opening ceremony of the winter Olympics Friday night, the president visited with downhill skier Sara Escobar.
“We are here to do business as well as attend the opening of the Olympics and to support our competitor in the games,” Lasso said. “Our objectives are to present Ecuador’s exciting business investment opportunities to Chinese companies, to expand trade between our countries and renegotiate our debt with Chinese banks and the Chinese government.”
Responding to criticism of his attendance at the opening ceremony of the Olympic games, Lasso said that concerns about possible Chinese human rights abuses will be addressed through diplomatic channels. A number of countries, including the United States and Great Britain, refused to send officials delegations to the games to protest Chinese treatment of the Muslim Uighur population. “I accepted this invitation last year, shortly after my inauguration, and never doubted that I would attend,” he said. “I understand the concerns of other countries but there are a number of avenues available to addressing them. I chose not to be part of a boycott.”
On Friday, Lasso met with representatives Alibaba, Sinovac, Xiaomi, Baidu and a seven other companies, to push investments in Ecuador, including the locating offices and manufacturing facilities in the country. After a morning meeting, he said that discussions are “far along” with the pharmaceutical company Sinovac to build a laboratory and production facility in Ecuador. A spokesman for the president said that Sinovac is considering sites in Quito and Cuenca.
In separate meetings, Minister of Foreign Affairs Juan Carlos Holguín hopes to eliminate trade barriers for some agricultural, seafood and other Ecuadorian exports. “We are already exporting to China in substantial quantities but we are paying tariffs on some products and we would like to see these eliminated or reduced,” he said. “My goal is to leave China with a memorandum of understanding regarding tariff preferences.”
Lasso said he will also discuss public-private infrastructure partnerships with officials of several Chinese companies.