The European Union finally reached a trade agreement with the world’s number one banana exporter, Ecuador. The Ecuadorian Minister of Trade, Francisco Rivadeneira, said yesterday (17 July) that his country had finalized negotiations with the EU to become part of the Multilateral Trade Agreement saying that this achievement was the result of five-year-long efforts. The deal was initially supposed to be regional but Ecuador’s leftist President, Rafael Correa, generally opposes free trade which is why he halted talks in 2009, leaving Peru and Colombia out. Both countries signed their own agreements with the EU in 2012. President Rafael Correa is convinced that free trade agreements undermine developing countries and harm the development of local industries. In spite of this, he was trying to diversify the oil-dependent economy in Ecuador also through trade-related measures as the 16-million country is the smallest member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). Mr. Correa pledged he would seek to boost trade while he was campaigning for presidential elections last year.
Since the EU-Ecuador negotiations resumed in January this year, they basically focused on the issue of bananas, which is the major non-oil export product of the country. Prime Minister Rivadeneira added that the EU had received assurances that the common market would not be inundated with bananas with a “trigger” tariff to be implemented once a certain level of imports was reached. The agreement further states that Ecuador will receive zero-duty access to the EU internal market for its industrial goods which is hoped to boost Ecuador’s agro-industrial industry. In return, the EU is to get better access to the country’s public procurement and Quito also pledged to stick to the regulations of the World Trade Organization (WTO) regarding the protection of intellectual property rights. The EU Commission reports that, in 2013, EU imports from Ecuador reached 2.6 billion euros while exports totaled 2.3 billion euros.