Noboa signs China trade agreement; Russia lifts ban on Ecuador bananas; Assembly vote on crime bill delayed; Noboa pledges support for the armed forces

Feb 16, 2024 | 0 comments

President Daniel Noboa signed a free trade agreement with China on Thursday. The agreement, which was approved by the National Assembly last week, opens markets for dozens of Ecuadorian agricultural and seafood exports and reduces the cost of thousands of Chinese products to consumers.

The Foreign Affairs and Trade Ministry will negotiate final details of the pact with their Chinese counterparts in a process expected to take several weeks. The FTA will go into force in 90 days.

An aerial view of Milagro, Guayas Province, on Tuesday shows extensive flooding caused by recent El Niño rains.

Ecuador’s banana, cut flowers and shrimp industries will see the biggest benefits from the agreement as all Chinese tariffs will be eliminated. In addition, exports of cocoa, coffee and a variety of fruits will also see expanded markets.

In all, more than 6,000 products are covered under the agreement, which officials say is similar to agreements China has with Chile, Colombia and Costa Rica. Tariffs will be eliminated entirely on about half the products, with other tariffs dropped over a 5- to 15-year period.

There are 600 exclusions to protect small and artisanal Ecuadorian businesses.

Officials warn of more El Niño flooding
Weather forecasters of the El Niño Study Commission (Erfen) are warning of heavy rains for the coastal and littoral regions from February 17 to 22. Many communities in the area have already experienced flooding conditions in recent weeks.

“Although El Niño is in a weakening trend, it is still producing heavy rainfall which is intensified by its coincidence with the beginning of the rainy season,” Erfen said in bulletin. It said that the communities of Tenguel, Puerto Bolívar, San Cristóbal and Milagro, already hard-hit by floods, can expect as much as 100 mm of additional rainfall.

Efren said that all coastal and lower elevation locations, including those in Pichincha, Azuay and Cotopaxi provinces, should be prepared for flooding rains.

Five deaths were reported last week as a result of heavy rain, including three in western Azuay Province as a result of a mudslide.

Noboa offers ‘full support’ for military and police operations
President Daniel Noboa called for respect for Ecuador’s Armed Forces and National Police in their fight against criminal gangs and cartels and described as “unpatriotic” those who make claims that ongoing operations are a violation of human rights.

President Daniel Noboa pledges his “full support” to the armed forces at the Manta airport Thursday.

The comment, made at a military ceremony at Manta’s Eloy Alfaro airport, followed a judge’s order that the Ombudsman’s Office investigate claims that military personnel tortured inmates at four prisons.

“You have my full support and the full support of the Ecuadorian people in our fight against narco terrorists and their allies,” Noboa told the assembled soldiers. “We are engaging an enemy that has threatened the peace and stability of our country and the fight requires determined and sometimes harsh measures.”

He added that his decision to include the armed forces in anti-narco operations has proven successful. “The results of the last 40 days of emergency operations are lower crime rates and greater security in our neighborhoods. We have no intention of bowing down and will continue the fight to a successful conclusion.”

Assembly vote on crime bill delayed
President of the National Assembly Henry Kronfle suspended debate over changes to the criminal code on Thursday, saying discussions would resume next week. Assembly members were divided Thursday about whether to vote separately on a late addition to the bill by the Justice Commission that some claim would “cripple” the justice system.

According to its opponents, the commission’s addition would open police and prosecutor files to the Assembly oversight and could lead to overturning the corruption conviction of former president Rafael Correa.

President of the Justice Commission Fernando Cedeño claims the proposal has been “misrepresented” and that it had the unanimous support of commission members. One commission member said he supported the measure “without a full understanding of its ramifications.”

Before the Assembly was adjourned Thursday, Cedeño conceded that the commission’s proposed additions did not have majority support.

Russia lifts ban on Ecuador bananas
Russia’s Federal Veterinary and Phytosanitary Surveillance Service announced early Friday that it has lifted a partial ban on banana imports from Ecuador. The ban was applied to five exporters following what the Surveillance Service claimed was an infestation of humpback flies.

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