After watching Donald Trump’s inauguration speech on Friday, United States Ambassador to Ecuador Todd Chapman is only certain of one thing. U.S. interests will come before those other nations and multi-nation organizations.
Until policies are detailed and a new U.S. Secretary of State is confirmed, what a Trump presidency will mean for Ecuador and the rest of the world is only conjecture.
One potential area of concern for Ecuador, Chapman says, is trade. “The future of the U.S. business relationship with Ecuador is something that could be discussed,” he said. The U.S. is Ecuador’s largest trading partner and access to U.S. markets is critical to the Ecuadorian economy.
Ecuador does not have a free trade agreement with U.S., unlike other Latin American countries, including neighboring Colombia and Peru. Instead, Ecuador exports to the U.S. under system of trade preferences granted by the U.S. Congress. “In the past, Ecuador has rejected free trade agreements with the U.S.,” Chapman says. “It is unclear if this will have any impact on relations between the countries.”
Ecuador’s former Ambassador to the U.S. Luis Gallegos thinks old trade agreements are almost meaningless at this point. “Trump doesn’t respect any of what has happened before as far as trade goes and has made this clear,” he says. Chapman and Gallegos agree that there’s a strong possibility is that there will be no major changes in the near future. “Ecuador is a little country and is probably not very high on Donald Trump’s list of concerns at this point,” Gallegos says.
When and if trade discussions between Ecuador and the U.S. occur, Chapman says Ecuador’s tariffs and import surcharges would probably be a point of contention. “An inequitable relationship currently exists between our countries,” he says. “The U.S. lets the vast majority of Ecuadorian products into its markets without tariffs while U.S. products pay tariffs and as much as 35% to 40% in surcharges,” he said, noting that the surcharges are due to expire in six months.
Until new people and policies are in place in the new U.S. government, Chapman says it’s a matter of wait-and-see if there will be major changes to Ecuador’s relationship with the U.S.