The diplomat highlighted the actions of President Lenin Moreno in this fight and reiterated US cooperation. with the Prosecutor’s Office wanting their collaboration. In the last 10 years the relationship between Ecuador and the United States had ups and downs and setbacks. But the new government opened the doors to create new business and business opportunities between nations.
Todd Chapman, US ambassador to Ecuador, spoke with the Public Media about this issue, investments, corruption, relations with Latin America and migration. “A new government is an opportunity to reach agreements and advance bilateral relations,” said the diplomat.
The bilateral relationship between Ecuador and the US is $ 10 billion. What are the opportunities to improve it, with a BIT (Bilateral Investment Treaty) that was denounced in May? Are there investments that expect arbitrations like Merck and Chevron?
Our business relationship has a long history and is very complex. Many companies and employees depend on this relationship. There are always many opportunities in an economic relationship. We must resolve conflicts and barriers. For example, arbitration awards are important for the US, investment problems have to be resolved to make way for other investors who want to enter. There are opportunities in the areas of agriculture, tourism, oil or mining.
Former President Obama sponsored the free trade agreements. Today, Trump prefers bilateral agreements and President Moreno aspires to make a commercial agreement with the United States.
My Government does not have as much interest in the FTAs as before. President Trump is inclined to have more bilateral agreements and that is a possibility for Ecuador. But, first, we have to solve the problems that exist to move towards that economic relationship: the cases that are in arbitration, the pending issues; and it is necessary to understand the new economic measures. There are many things that have to be clarified to move forward.
The economic proposal runs into the rejection of the private sector that asked for its elimination. For example, the service rate of 10 cents, which is an unfair competition. How does the United States look at this situation?
We are committed to work in the promotion of the Ecuadorian economy. If this country is stronger, richer and stronger, it is good for our relationship. But there is a lot of confusion and doubts with the new economic measures. What do 10 cents mean, is it by weight, per gram? This measure is problematic because it is not simple or understood by the private sector. That generates uncertainty and this is the enemy of a strong economy. The Government is reviewing that proposal. Today’s measures are not those of the past, but those that will lead Ecuador to have a more prosperous future. I believe that a simpler package to understand and that is supported by the private sector is the way forward. The economy depends on the private sector and if it is not in favor, then there is a problem
What shields does the United States use for economic negotiations with Ecuador?
There are not so many negotiations between the two countries. There is usually a treaty to guide the work. The US private sector works and decides whether or not to invest in a country. Investment creates jobs and that is what is important for every Ecuadorian. For example, General Motors has a factory in Quito and generates hundreds of jobs. Investment creates jobs and opportunities for the country.
In the current situation we have a political crisis in the ruling movement divided into two blocks by two very important issues: the consultation and the political and criminal trial of the Vice President. Can this internal situation scare off investors?
I think that what happens in Ecuador is a very important issue, not only for this country, but for the world. We hope that those involved react in favor of Ecuador’s interest. I wish that everything goes well, that the process is suitable, very democratic and that the institutions react for the good of the country.
The new government has uncovered cases of corruption. His country cooperates with the Ecuadorian Prosecutor’s Office in the Odebrecht issue. How does this affect the image of Ecuador?
What I see is a commitment from the Government and President Lenin Moreno to fight corruption. I want to congratulate him because it is a difficult situation. We have cooperated with the Office of the Prosecutor and we will continue along that line. We have the same interest in fighting corruption in the United States, Ecuador and elsewhere.
Many Ecuadorians have been deported from the United States. and they have reported mistreatment. What happens on that topic?
The US government is in favor of legal migration. The problem is not with Ecuadorians who are legally in the United States, but with those who go to my country and stay illegally. All have been treated with respect for their human rights. But, in that case, they must leave voluntarily. The new policies have reduced illegal migration to the United States. In Ecuador, we have received more than 200,000 applicants for US visas.
In international politics the ex-president of the United States Barack Obama had an opening towards Latin America, especially Cuba, but what happens in the administration of Donald Trump?
We have a commitment to all of Latin America. Cuba and Venezuela are two particular cases. We withdraw our diplomats from Havana, for their safety. Cuba must include the issue of political prisoners and human rights. In Venezuela, democracy is affected, there are political prisoners and thousands of Venezuelans flee from there. (I)