BRUSSELS – Ecuador on Thursday reached a trade agreement with the European Union which will allow its agricultural produce, except bananas, to enter the 28 EU countries without tariffs, the country’s Foreign Trade minister said.
“It is an ambitious deal for the EU and Ecuador,” minister Francisco Rivadeneira said in a press conference in Brussels, as he officially announced the accord.
Rivadeneira said the main sticking points in the negotiations had revolved on agriculture as Ecuador, the top exporter of bananas to the EU, wanted a better deal on the fruit, but he added other goods like dairy products had also been considered sensitive by the European side.
Once the deal enters into effect, presumably in the second semester of 2016 according to Rivadeneira, all Ecuadorean agricultural exports to the EU except bananas will be tariff free.
The EU will extend the current system of preferential tariffs for Ecuadorean exports which was to expire in December until the new pact takes effect, he explained.
Rivadeneira said the EU had received safeguards it would not be flooded by Ecuadorean bananas, with an agreement on a trigger tariff once a certain level of imports was achieved.
Ecuador in 2009 abandoned free trade negotiations held jointly with Colombia and Peru with the EU, alleging they would not help develop local industry, but resumed talks last January.
Rivadeneira said Thursday’s pact was “different” from the one agreed by the EU with Colombia and Peru and was “better adapted to the needs” of the country.
“These have been four years of enormous work and tremendous sacrifice,” he added, as he stressed Quito had secured safeguards for its most sensitive sectors.
The EU buys 30 percent of Ecuador’s exports, excluding oil, and runs a trade deficit with the Andean country.
Canned tuna, cocoa, fruit juices, coffee, tea and other foods are some of the main exports to the EU, which in 2012 imported Ecuadorean goods for a value of $3.3 billion, while its exports stood at $3.2 billion.