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MEPs back trade deal with Ecuador
“This agreement is crucial for Ecuador’s economy and it can pave the way for more progressive social and environmental policies. We will continuously evaluate the effect of the deal on the people of the country and demand appropriate changes, if necessary”, said rapporteur Helmut Scholz (GUE/NGL, DE) before the vote.
MEPs approved the deal by 544 votes to 114, with 44 abstentions.
Under the deal, tariffs will be gradually eliminated. Upon its entry into force, Ecuador will end them on 60% of its imports from the EU, while the EU will eliminate them on almost 95% of its imports from Ecuador. Ecuador will also get improved access for its key exports to the EU, such as fish, cut flowers, coffee, cocoa, fruits and nuts. Its bananas will get a preferential rate too, but the interests of EU growers will be protected by a stabilisation mechanism to be laid down in separate legislation. A political agreement on the mechanism, which allows for the suspension of preferences after an annual threshold is reached, was struck by ministers and MEPs in Strasbourg on Tuesday. The deal also offers better access to public procurement and services and will reduce technical barriers to trade.
Maintaining preferential access
By joining the agreement, Ecuador retains preferential access to the EU market, which it would otherwise lose due to a reform of the EU's trade preferences scheme. This is vital because its economy has suffered heavily from falling oil prices, plunging exports and massive repair costs after an earthquake this year killed 673 and left tens of thousands injured.
In a November 2015 resolution, MEPs welcomed the envisaged deal, but urged Ecuador to tackle issues such as labour rights, deforestation and the protection of indigenous peoples. Ecuador presented the European Parliament with a plan of action to resolve the development issues in June 2016.
Trade talks between the EU and Colombia, Ecuador and Peru were launched in January 2009. In July 2009, Ecuador suspended its participation in the talks. The EU-Colombia/Peru Trade Agreement were applied provisionally from 2013. Negotiations with Ecuador resumed in January 2014 and were concluded on 17 July 2014. The Commission estimates that EU exporters will save at least €106 million in tariffs and Ecuadorian firms almost €250 million a year once the deal is fully implemented.
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