Interview with Josep Borrell, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Spain. He has a degree and a PhD in Economics from the Complutense University of Madrid. He was a European deputy, president of the European Parliament, president of the Development Assistance Commission and has been a teacher.
What cooperation projects does Spain carry out in Ecuador?
We are helping to build anti-seismic houses with bamboo in Manabí. Spanish cooperation also helps the National Institute of Agricultural Research in the development of technologies against pests. The four-year cooperation plan that was signed last February between the two countries mobilizes 50 million euros (USD 56.18 million), but the aid cannot be assessed only by that amount of resources, but by the transfer of knowledge.
How is Spanish cooperation with Ecuador, in relation to that delivered to other countries in the region?
Ecuador is one of the countries where Spanish cooperation has been working longer, with more intensity and providing more resources. Within Latin America, the country is, together with Peru, among those that receive the most cooperation. This probably happens because they have reached a level that allows them to assimilate this technological transfer. Ecuador seeks to be more attractive to foreign capital.
Do you think that the country now generates more confidence for the investor?
Openness to foreign investment is essential for a country like Ecuador, but that requires macroeconomic stability, regulatory stability and a commitment to reforms. Besides, advances in digitalization are required. Spain has always had confidence in Ecuador and the proof is that the cumulative investment of Spanish companies in Ecuador is USD 1.6 billion. Investors seek stability, legal security and Ecuador is on this path.
What impact did Ecuador’s decision to denounce the Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT) with Spain in 2017?
We have not seen an impact because, despite the complaint, our BIT is still in force until 2022. We have not yet worked on a new document, but there has to be a new BIT. All serious countries have this instrument.
How much is expected to grow this year the investment of Spanish companies in Ecuador?
There will be an investment growth this year. We’re sure of that. We know that there are investment projects in high speed railway infrastructure, since Spain has a great experience in this activity.
In which areas is there the greatest investment interest in Ecuador?
So far we have been in traditional sectors such as telephony, petrochemical, hydrocarbons, but the development of agriculture in Ecuador offers great potential. That is an area of interest. We must not undermine agriculture. The agro has been technified a lot and we have Spanish agricultural companies that are being deployed around the world.
What is your balance of the results of the trade agreement between the European Union and Ecuador in these more than two years of validity?
It has had a double positive effect. It has meant zero tariff for many exports that reach all of Europe. The most important are marine products, fish, tuna, shrimp. On the part of Spain, on the other hand, industrial products have been sent, machinery that no longer pays a tariff. What new areas of interest could Ecuador exploit for new exports? At the moment they will continue to be agricultural products and the fishing sector, but in Spain we are big importers of noble wood such as teak.
What other niches can Spain exploit in the Ecuadorian market?
With the commercial agreement has begun to sell with great force the wine. As Ecuador’s income level increases, Spain will be able to export more luxury products to Ecuador, high-end products and no longer just machines to produce. There are opportunities in the textile and high-end food sectors, but that depends on the increase in income levels of the Ecuadorian population.
How does the process progress so that Ecuadorians no longer require a visa to go to their country?
It is a very sensitive issue. Spain has already raised the issue to the European Union (EU) and will defend it, but these decisions are not made by Spain, but by the entire EU, and a two-thirds majority is required. This is not the best moment, we are about to hold elections and there will be changes in the European Commission. In addition, the issue of migration is a very sensitive issue in Europe. Before there is a new European Commission (which is expected in November), you can not think about that. But Spain has a firm commitment. (I)