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If Ecuador wants free trade with the U.S., it should earn it

EcuadorNational GovernmentGovernmentCrime, Law and JusticeTreatiesEconomic OrganizationPolitics

The Times' Dec. 3 editorial, "Trading with Ecuador," ignores evidence of Ecuador's hostility to the United States and misleadingly asserted that Chevron is calling for an end to beneficiary status for Ecuador under the Andean Trade Preferences Act.

While more than one organization has called for "halting the trade agreement" with Ecuador, Chevron is not. Chevron is arguing that countries should not be unconditionally rewarded with unilateral trade benefits even as they flout commercial obligations with the United States. Because Ecuador has taken a series of actions to undermine trade and investment rules, Chevron is calling for treating Ecuador differently under the Andean Trade Preferences Act than the other two countries included in the bill, Peru and Colombia. Chevron has proposed several ways for Congress and the administration to treat Ecuador differently, including statutory periodic reviews or limiting preferences to private entities and firms in Ecuador, not to government-owned entities such as the state-owned oil company, Petroecuador.

The Times' claim that Ecuador has "demonstrated a willingness to work with the U.S." does not reflect what is actually happening with the bilateral relationship. Just in the last year, Ecuador has taken a variety of actions that demonstrate its hostility to U.S. interests. For example, it evicted the United States from an air base from which it ran drug interdiction efforts for more than a decade. It also became only the second country in history (after Bolivia, which subsequently lost its trade preferences) to withdraw from the 156-member-nation International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes, after calling the body "an atrocity" that "signifies colonialism" and "slavery . . . to Washington." It also withdrew from investment treaties with the United States and a dozen other countries, and it provided Ecuadorean interests a road map for using U.S. intellectual property rights without permission.

The situation in Ecuador has gotten so bad that in November, Transparency International called Ecuador's government one of the most corrupt in the Americas, with a score worse than 27 of the 31 countries tallied in the Western Hemisphere and 146th out of 180 countries total worldwide.

Ecuador once was a U.S. ally that respected the rule of law, but that has not been the case in recent years, and its treatment of U.S. investors and its obligations on investment and contractual matters reflect that change. The U.S. government, Transparency International and the World Bank have all noted serious concerns with Ecuador's judicial system and adherence to the rule of law.

Chevron is not asking the U.S. to force a favorable outcome in the case. It asks for a fair hearing, a hope that Ecuador will honor its contractual obligations and consideration of Ecuador's actions on well-established trade and investment treaties and guidelines.

Chevron has been a long-standing supporter of trade preferences program. However, we believe that extending unilateral trade preferences should carry with it some type of recognition that the recipient countries must adhere to the rule of law and trade and investment obligations. We would hope that U.S. policymakers believe in this same standard.

Dave Samson is Chevron's general manager of public affairs.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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