With Lenín Moreno, Ecuador approached the United States again. Now that his term is about to end, the president leaves a gap open for the consolidation of a future trade agreement. The two countries have just signed, precisely, an agreement with four starting points that mark the path of a more open bilateral relationship and lighter procedures for exports and imports from both markets. The first-phase pact is a firm step, but it is limited.
The commercial horizon will depend from now on the Democratic Government of Joe Biden and the Ecuadorian president who leaves the polls in February 2021. The foundations have been laid in four aspects – the fight against customs corruption, benefits for the trade of micro, small and medium enterprises, legal certainty to attract investment and simplification of exchange procedures – which consolidate the unfreezing of relations in the last three years . But the new agreement leaves out sensitive issues such as agriculture, intellectual property or the Chevron case.
“It is the beginning of a negotiation. It opens the door to a trade deal, but there are some issues that need to be resolved. There are many irritants, ”acknowledges the president of the Quito Chamber of Commerce and former head of the federation that brings together all the chambers, Patricio Alarcón. “Although what they have just signed is very important, to have a bilateral agreement, you must obtain the approval of the US Congress and the Assembly in Ecuador. The irritating points must be resolved first and, second, if a government arrives that does not want to continue with the negotiations, it simply is not going to sign. It will not materialize ”.
In addition to the presidential replacement in the United States, the Andean country holds elections in February 2021 whose outcome is as uncertain as the fifteen candidates who aspire to the presidential sash. Lenín Moreno ruled out his reelection from the beginning and the two most advantageous candidates are Guillermo Lasso, the leader of the conservative movement CREO, and Andrés Arauz, the new face sponsored by former president Rafael Correa. Even so, the latest electoral polls give more weight to the null or blank vote than to either of the two and reflect that 67% of those consulted have not yet decided who to support.
With this electoral context, the Ecuadorian government assumes that it will not tie or close an expanded trade agreement with the United States, despite the progress made after Correa’s departure from the Carondelet presidential palace and the consequent change in Ecuador’s foreign policy. During Lenín Moreno’s administration, the authorities’ meetings were resumed. The visit of a US vice president was received in Ecuadorian territory for the first time in a decade with the arrival of Mike Pence in June 2018. And that opened the key for Lenín Moreno to be received by Donald Trump at the White House in February of this year, before the COVID-19 pandemic spread.
The Minister of Production and Foreign Trade, Iván Ontaneda, recalled in the presentation of the new agreement the change in attitude of Ecuador towards the United States with the arrival of Moreno. “This is a process in which, since the government of President Moreno began, it was decided to point towards pragmatism, abandon ideology and seek true strategic alliances that generate opportunities for 17 million Ecuadorians,” said the head of the portfolio that In October of this year, it also announced the commercial unlocking for Ecuadorian roses by being included in the GSP tariff benefit program, an aspiration that had been paralyzed for years.
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