The Ecuador Trade Office in Chicago launched a campaign May 15 to extend trade agreements between Ecuador and the United States that expire July 31. Unless either the Andean Trade Promotion & Drug Eradication Act or the U.S. Generalized System of Preferences program are renewed by an act of the U.S. Congress, tariffs on imported products from Ecuador will be imposed and their prices will likely increase.
Borys Mejia, trade commissioner for Ecuador in Chicago, told The Produce News that the new taxes would vary for different products, but that the tariff imposed for cut flowers from Ecuador would be 6.8 percent. In 2012, the trade office stated, Ecuador exported $400 million in market value of flowers into the United States. All Ecuadorian imports to this country, about 40 percent of all its exports, totaled about $9.3 billon, a figure attributed to the U.S. Census Bureau.
“The United States is Ecuador’s principal trading partner, and our business activities are important sources of jobs in both countries,” Mejia added in a statement. “Renewing these trade agreements and reclassifying some products under GSP would mean that trade between Ecuador and the U.S. could continue seamlessly” while new agreements are reached.
Under the theme, “Keep Trade Going,” the trade office hosted a tour of Chicago’s O’Hare airport and the building that will become the new perishables center there (see story, page 85), a ride on a downtown L train with cars especially decorated inside and out with images and photos of Ecuadorian roses and food products; and a VIP reception and dinner for about 80 business and political leaders to discuss trade relations.
Speakers at the dinner were Ecuador’s Ambassador to the United States, Nathalie Cely; Javier Salas, senior adviser to Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn; Jerry Roper, president and chief executive officer of the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce; Adam Rod, planning officer for the Chicago Department of Aviation; and Borys Mejia of Ecuador’s Chicago trade office.
Also, Shlomo Danieli, owner of Blooming of Beloit, a grower and importer and member of the team that will establish the O’Hare perishables center, spoke about the new facility’s potential.
Cely said that Ecuador’s roses and chocolates are world-renowned. Her country has not done as good a job, she acknowledged, in marketing the hats it makes, which are known as Panama hats though made in Ecuador. She noted that in Ecuador, 60 percent of the floral labor force is women, often the only jobs available to them in rural areas. Some 270,000 Americans visit her country every year, she added, and 70,000 Ecuadorians live in the Chicago area.
The ATPDEA trade agreement to date has been successful in reducing the drug problem in Ecuador, the ambassador stated, and her country has invested billions on its own to keep it safe from drugs, including offering residents scholarships worldwide.
Roper of the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce said the extension of the U.S.-Ecuador trade agreement was important, and would help the success of the perishables center. His association has been a strong supporter of the center.