by U.S. Trade Representative Robert B. Zoellick and
Ecuador's Minister of Foreign Trade Ivonne Baki
in Quito, Ecuador
Tuesday, June 8, 2004
BAKI: Thank you for
coming. We want to welcome the USTR, whom everyone in Ecuador already knows, Ambassador Robert Zoellick. As you all know, he has
wide experience in the subject of trade openness. He has been a part of all U.S. trade
negotiations, beginning with NAFTA, and all other negotiations that have taken place, so I
believe it is very important that he visits us. We are glad he is here. In Ecuador, we all know that
there are many perhaps not problems, but let's say issues, in understanding the free trade
agreement. There is concern, with reason perhaps, because information has not been communicated as
widely and thoroughly as it should have been. We we are working on that. But the visit of Amb.
Zoellick is very important for us because he can explain how trade, which I have always
considered a positive factor, can help improve the quality of life for Ecuadorians and for all
peoples that enter into negotiations.
Those who benefit the most are always those who have less. He has
the experience and knows the importance of free trade to generate jobs, which is what
Ecuador needs the most. I would like to pass the microphone to Amb. Zoellick and of course welcome
the U.S. Ambassador alsonwho is a person very much loved around here too. Welcome
ZOELLICK: Well first I
want to thank all of you for joining us today. It's a particular pleasure for me to be here with my good friend and colleague Minister Baki.
It's an honor for me to have a chance to meet President Gutierrez tomorrow. And I want to begin
by congratulating the President and the Minister for their very successful hosting of
the Miss Universe pageant. It enabled people all around the world to see your beautiful country.
On this visit I have come in part to be able to have a conversation not only with the
government but with the business sector, civil society, and members of Congress as well as the press. So I
apologize, we are a little rushed but I'm trying to fit a lot in because one of my main goals of
this visit is to listen and learn from these different groups in Ecuador about their attitudes on the
economy and trade. Now we have a good base that we're working from which is the Andean Trade
Preference Act. Because last year Ecuador exported some 2.7 billion dollars worth of goods to the
United States. That's twice as many goods as the United States exported to Ecuador. And it was an
increase of some 27 percent
over the prior year. So we're now trying to build on that success.
And that's why we have begun free trade agreement negotiations with Ecuador as well as its
neighbors, Colombia and Peru.
Because part of my message today is how we can work together to
connect trade with the plans for Ecuador's development. Because the real purpose is not just
trade but to create opportunity and jobs and hope for the people of Ecuador. And combining that
with the stability of a Constitutional Democracy they work hand in hand to help Ecuador
compete in the global economy. So I'm very pleased that the Minister arranged a meeting
for me with a number of her colleges in the government because these free trade agreements
involve many sectors. So it helps us to be able to solve problems together. Thank
QUESTION: (In Spanish)
ZOELLICK: Under the Andean Trade Preference Act, there are some
requirements set by our Congress and some of these deal with improving the conditions of
labor in Ecuador. And we are very pleased with the work that we have had with the Minister of
Labor dealing with some issues like child labor. And it is a good example of how trade and the
labor issues can work together because under the Andean Trade Preference Act, Ecuador now exports
over 100 million dollars a year in cut flowers.
And so we talked with the minister about
emphasizing good labor conditions in that sector which he has already been working on. But we have
some other issues in that area and also in some of the investment pockets. But with the
president's leadership and that of the minister and some of her colleagues we've already made good
progress and solved a number. So I'm pleased with the ongoing commitment to address the other
topics. But what you should recognize is that we don't only want to talk about those issues,
we want to talk about building for the future and how to try to expand the export and business ties
between Ecuador and the United States.
Because we want Ecuador to have the chance that Mexico has
had, Chile has had, Central America has had. And if there's one message that I can ask you to
help me convey, it's to recognize that Ecuador must compete in a global economy. So I just
came, a couple days ago from a meeting of countries all through the Asia-Pacific region
that was held in Chile. So you had countries like China and South-east Asia. And one of the
reasons we are trying to negotiate this free trade agreement is to give an advantage to some of the
countries that are in the western hemisphere. Because you can find in many areas there's a
complementary. For example,
agriculture is often very sensitive but Ecuador exports about five
hundred and fifty million dollars of agriculture products to the United States. We export
about one hundred million dollars to Ecuador and they don't overlap that much. So both sides benefit
because the more people that have jobs in Ecuador, the more they'll buy goods from the United
States and others.
QUESTION: (In Spanish) As
a background, Ecuador has gone through a political crisis during the last few weeks, how much does this political crisis affect the
progress of free trade negotiations and how necessary is the stability of a country in
making progress in these type of negotiations. I mean stability in terms of institutional
ZOELLICK: I had the
pleasure of meeting President Gutierrez shortly after he was elected. And I think all the people of Ecuador can take pride in his
election through a fair and open process. And we have respect for a number of the difficult
decisions that he and his cabinet ministers have made. So we believe that constitutional democracy
is obviously very important for Ecuador just as it is in the United States. We look forward to
continuing to work with the President and his Ministers. And we also respect the role of the
Congress which I am going to visit next. And obviously if there could be one message I could
send others, it's the point that was implied by your question which is that political stability
tends to support economic stability.
So the work of the President in his team within a constitutional
democracy working with the Congress will help make the economy of Ecuador more stable. I
think that is the message that people have seen over the past couple of days with the Miss
Universe Pageant and the meeting at the OAS. And that's a good message of leadership. Thank you.