United States Ambassador to Ecuador Todd Chapman believes the time is right for an improvement in U.S. Ecuador relations. Those relations have been tense since the government of former president Rafael Correa refused to renew the lease on a U.S. military base in Manta in 2010.
“I think there are opportunities to improve the relationship in several areas of interest, especially now that both countries have new presidents,” Chapman said in an interview with Quito newspaper El Comercio. “For a number of reasons, the relationship between the U.S. and Ecuador has been strained in recent years. I think now is the time to expand cooperation and activate programs of mutual interest,” he added.
Chapman says he is pleased with President Lenin Moreno’s policy of dialog with domestic interest groups and believes the approach will benefit bilateral relations as well. “We look forward to working with President Moreno in building a new future between the countries,” he says. “I’m not interested in reinterpreting the past and dwelling on old problems.”
Of immediate concern for Ecuador is its trade relationship with the U.S. Although the two countries do not have a free trade agreement, Ecuador is included in the General System of Trade Preference (GSP) that allows certain exports to enter the U.S. duty free. The GSP is up for renewal at the end of the year.
“The trade preferences will be renewed by Congress and the president and we are currently evaluating the status of all countries in the program, including Ecuador,” Chapman said. “This involves determining if countries fulfill the requirements of the GSP program. In the case of Ecuador, there are issues that need to be resolved and we are working on those.”
One of those issues, Chapman says, is making sure Ecuador is complying with rules of international arbitration in disputes with U.S. companies. “There are a couple of cases which require the attention of the Ecuadorian government,” he says.
Chapman is hopeful that the conflicts will be resolved and that Ecuador will be included in the renewal of GSP.
“Ecuador’s trade minister, Pablo Campaña, was in Washington at the end of September and talked with the U.S. trade representative, the minister of commerce and officials of the Department of State,” he says. “We are continuing the discussions.”