Economy

U.S., Ecuador ink mini-deal on trade; U.S. Chamber says more work ahead

U.S. industry officials said more work was needed to reach a comprehensive trade agreement

Ecuador's capital, Quito. Photo: Shutterstock
  • The pact updates an earlier agreement with new provisions on customs, regulation, anti-corruption and small and medium-sized companies;
  • The agreement is part of a broader push by the Trump administration to provide a counterweight in the region to China.

The United States and Ecuador on Tuesday signed a protocol on trade rules and transparency, a move welcomed by business groups in both countries, but U.S. industry officials said more work was needed to reach a comprehensive trade agreement.

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Ecuador’s Minister of Production, Foreign Trade, Investment, and Fisheries, Iván Ontaneda, signed the protocol on Tuesday. The pact updates an earlier agreement with new provisions on customs, regulation, anti-corruption and small and medium-sized companies.

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“This Protocol is an important step in establishing closer economic ties between our countries,” Lighthizer said in a statement. He added the countries would continue efforts to boost trade and reform Ecuador’s import licensing regime.

Neil Herrington, senior vice president for the Americas at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said the new commitments would spur growth and jobs as both countries recovered from the coronavirus pandemic.

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But he said significant work would be needed to reach the long-term goal of a comprehensive, high-standard trade deal that strengthens investor and intellectual property protections, fosters digital trade and combats non-tariff barriers.

The Association of American Chambers of Commerce in Latin America and the Caribbean also welcomed the agreement signed Tuesday in a tweet, calling it a “Phase-One Trade Agreement.”

Herrington said deal recognized progress made by Ecuador’s government under President Lenín Moreno to advance reforms, build closer ties with the United States, and reintegrate the country into the global economic system.

The agreement is part of a broader push by the Trump administration to provide a counterweight in the region to China, which has become the No. 1 trading partner for some countries, as well as a critical source of capital for Latin America.

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The new trade rules will streamline customs procedures, including electronic submission of customs declarations and consistent procedures between ports, according to a USTR fact sheet.

Ecuador also committed to publish draft regulations online, using reliable, transparent information; ban the tax deductibility of bribes; adopt measures to prevent and combat bribery and corruption; and hold regular dialogues with businesses to reach out to under-represented groups.

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