Ecuador official slams free trade

Associated Press 07.02.07

Ecuador Official Slams Free Trade

Ecuador’s foreign minister said Monday it will insist on protecting national production if it resumes talks for a long-term trade agreement with the United States.

A free trade agreement between the U.S. and Ecuador was derailed last year after the Andean nation canceled the operating contract of California-based Occidental Petroleum Corp. (nyse: OXY - news - people )

Foreign Minister Maria Fernanda Espinosa said Ecuador, which has proposed talks on a long-term trade deal, would set the agenda to establish "clear and fair rules that benefit both parties."

"We don’t believe in free trade," Espinosa told Channel 4 television. "We believe there should be regulated trade with clear rules that benefit all parties."

Neighboring Colombia and Peru have each signed and approved trade pacts with Washington that are awaiting passage by American lawmakers.

But Ecuador’s leftist President Rafael Correa, a close ally of Venezuelan leader and Washington foe Hugo Chavez, has vowed not to sign such an agreement, and relations between Quito and Washington have cooled since Correa took office in January.

Correa also says he will not extend a deal letting the U.S. military use Ecuador’s Manta air base for drug surveillance flights when it expires in 2009.

Last week, Congress agreed on an eight-month extension of a trade-promotion agreement with four Andean nations.

The package provides duty-free access to U.S. markets for some 5,600 products from Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru in exchange for efforts to combat drug production and trafficking in those countries.

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source: Forbes