Guillermo Lasso will receive 44 embassies and 36 consulates. Will he shore up his commercial agenda with these entities or will he make adjustments?

May 16, 2021 00:00
Priscila Alvarado, Andrés García and EL COMERCIO DATA (I)

The outgoing foreign minister, Manuel Mejía, met with the delegates of the president-elect, Guillermo Lasso. Photo: Courtesy Chancellery

President Lenín Moreno took a radical turn in foreign policy.  Commercial opening was the spearhead of this strategy, putting an end to 10 years marked by protectionism.

The opening agenda will not only continue during the administration of his successor, Guillermo Lasso, but will also deepen.

Guided by pragmatism, Moreno advanced in the signing of three broad treaties with the United Kingdom, four northern European countries grouped in the EFTA bloc, and Chile.

The agreement with the latter country was the first step in Ecuador’s intention to join the Pacific Alliance, which also includes Mexico, Peru and Colombia .

The Pacific Alliance is on Lasso’s agenda. He made it clear in Colombia, the first country he visited in April as president-elect/ He requested the support of the president of that nation, Iván Duque, for the “immediate entry” of Ecuador to that bloc, which promotes free trade .

The next step in that goal is to finalize a treaty with Mexico. Negotiations have begun with that country and there is already a 60% advance, according to Iván Ontaneda, Minister of Production and Foreign Trade.

But some productive sectors, such as auto assemblers and white goods, have observed that this opening process will deepen the trade deficit with Mexico and ask for in-depth studies before continuing with that agenda.

A central axis of Moreno’s foreign policy was to deepen ties with the United States . The main results were achieved in 2020, under the leadership of Ivonne Baki at the Washington Embassy. In March of that year, Moreno paid a visit to his then-counterpart Donald Trump.

In November, the roses were included in a system of preferences so that they enter the US market without tariffs and in December a first-phase agreement was signed with that country, which facilitates trade and opens the door to sign a broader trade agreement.

Baki herself will be the one to promote that roadmap, after Lasso ratified her as ambassador in that country. The official has been in charge of that headquarters in the administrations of Jamil Mahuad, Gustavo Noboa, Moreno and now in the administration of Lasso.

Moreno leaves pending the negotiation with South Korea -which did not advance during his administration- and according to the productive sector, the strengthening of competitiveness.

In imports, tariffs on technological items and some agricultural machinery and inputs were eliminated and lowered. And it was decided to eliminate from next June the rate of USD 42 for the 4×4, which allows to bring products that weigh less than 4 kilograms and have a cost of less than USD 400 without tarrifs.

But the revisions have been punctual and the tariff structure for imports inherited from former president Rafael Correa persists, which Lasso has offered to dismantle. He has also proposed attracting investment with the progressive elimination of the foreign currency outflow tax (ISD), something that his predecessor also proposed, but did not materialize.

In addition to the trade issue, Lasso will have other challenges in foreign policy. To begin with, he will receive an institution with 44 embassies, 36 consulates and five permanent representations. In total, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has 1,380 civil servants.

During the outgoing government, 17 offices abroad were closed, as part of the process of reducing the size of the State. “A few years ago there were more than 2,000 officials,” said Foreign Minister Manuel Mejía Dalmau .

Lasso has not confirmed who will be his foreign minister, although it is unofficially stated that he would delegate that function to career diplomat Mauricio Montalvo, who was in charge of the Ecuadorian embassy in Australia.

According to Mejía Dalmau, there are 65 free-standing officials in the Foreign Ministry, who were asked to step aside before the new government takes office. These “political fee” charges will be available to Lasso as of May 24.

In addition to Baki, the elected president will add Pascual del Cioppo, leader of the Christian Social Party, to the foreign service as ambassador to Spain, and Emilio Palacio as consul in Miami.

As part of the transition, the Foreign Ministry has informed Lasso’s delegates about the negotiation processes of the trade agreement with the United States, the accession to the Pacific Alliance and also the regional response to Venezuelan migration.

Mejía Dalmau also hopes that an alliance project between Ecuador and Germany will continue, which implies an increase in imports and exports between the two countries.

Another issue is the follow-up to the Interinstitutional Committee of the Sea, which is in charge of directing the extension of the geographic platform. One of the objectives is to face the presence of fishing fleets near the Galapagos. “No decision is being made. The next government must appoint ambassadors and take the resolutions it deems possible.”

Read the original coverage from El Comercio at https://www.elcomercio.com/actualidad/politica/guillermo-lasso-agenda-mercados-comercio.html


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