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Ecuador - US Relations

Inaugurated in January 2007, Rafael Correa is the first president since the 1979 return to democracy to enjoy popularity in all regions of the country and among a broad array of class and demographic groups. Correa's Proud and Sovereign Fatherland (PAIS) Alliance is founded on its concept of 21st Century Socialism. He is a nationalist first, and a leftist second. He chafes at Ecuador's traditional dependency on the U.S., but is not avowedly anti-American (he and other close family members have lived in the U.S. and he expresses a genuine affinity for many aspects of U.S. society).

By early 2009 President Correa's adopted an increasingly leftist, anti-American posture, apparently unconcerned that his actions would result in frayed ties with the United States. These moves may be aimed at countering criticism from far left elites and undercutting prospects for a more radical presidential candidate (e.g., former Constituent Assembly president Alberto Acosta). Visiting Havana in January 2009, Correa demanded that the "Empire" end its "blockade" of Cuba, calling U.S. policy absurd. He accused the "Empire" of ethnocide (apparently meaning destruction of a people's culture). He called for an Organization of Latin American States that would include Cuba and exclude the US.

The US first moved into Correa's crosshairs after Washington defended Colombia's March 1, 2008 incursion into Ecuador, which prompted Correa to allege participation by the United States and make his first call for an Organization of Latin American States. The low point of the period was in early April 2008 when Correa charged that the CIA had taken over Ecuadorian intelligence services and suggested the CIA might be out to kill him.

President Correa's August 2010 inauguration took place on August 10, as the government had desired, on the same date that Ecuadorians celebrated the 200th anniversary of Ecuador's First Call for Independence. Correa made a point of celebrating the triumph of his citizen revolution with the common people of Ecuador by hosting an event for them at a soccer stadium, with performances by popular entertainers and political speeches. Most of the cabinet was in attendance, as well as Presidents Chavez, Zelaya, and Raul Castro. Correa referred to what he termed imperialism, saying that U.S. bases in Colombia were a provocation and that if war was wanted, the countries of Latin America would be ready and united.

Correa's speech was not lacking in negative references to the U.S. and what he alleged were imperialistic U.S. interests. He touched on the U.S. while speaking about economic issues, but his remarks became sharper when he addressed the Ecuador-Colombia border conflict and the U.S. fight against narco-trafficking. Correa stated, "I hope that the installation of military bases on Colombia soil does not propose to strengthen the war-prone policy of our neighbor government, and combat, not narco-trafficking, but the insurgent governments of our American continent." He pointed to what he called a double standard because Colombia was arguing that U.S. access to bases in Colombia was strictly a Colombian affair, while nuclear programs (presumably meaning Iran's) that were considered hostile to "certain centers of power" were treated as an issue of global concern.

Referring to the U.S. Forward Operating Location (FOL) in Manta, Ecuador, Correa went on to suggest that the United States' true motives were being hidden: "A few days ago, the last foreign soldier that was in our territory went back to his country, and we had the satisfaction of announcing to Ecuadorians that we had recovered our territorial sovereignty, which in a moment of surrender was mutilated in favor of another government, whose goals are not necessarily those advocated in public."

The United States and Ecuador have mutual interests in combating narco-trafficking and cooperating in fostering Ecuador's economic development and reducing poverty. Ties have been strengthened by the presence of an estimated one million to two million Ecuadorians living in the United States, by 250,000 U.S. citizens visiting Ecuador annually, and by approximately 50,000 U.S. citizens residing in Ecuador. More than 100 U.S. companies are doing business in Ecuador.

In 2007, during Correa's first year in office, his government had continued - and even improved - bilateral cooperation (asking only for tweaks in the exchange of diplomatic notes on Military Group activities to show greater respect for Ecuadorian sovereignty). His actions were generally pragmatic that year, such as paying the debt. Although he occasionally took a swipe at us (e.g., when TSA searched him at Miami Airport), Correa did not use the U.S. as his regular whipping boy, instead lashing out against the traditional domestic political parties, bankers and other economic elite, and the media. In the foreign policy arena, while Correa clearly wished to reduce dependence on the U.S., he appeared during his first year in office to want to cultivate good relations with countries across the political spectrum.

The U.S. launched a Bilateral Dialogue with Ecuador in November 2008, during which cooperation in human development and poverty reduction, economic development, commerce and investment, and migratory issues was discussed. The second plenary meeting, along with a meeting of the Ecuador-United States Trade and Investment Council, took place in November 2009, and included a discussion of security-related issues, in addition to continuing initiatives begun in the first plenary meeting.

The United States assists Ecuador's economic development directly through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), through multilateral organizations such as the Inter-American Development Bank, and through trade and technology transfers facilitated by the Foreign Commercial Service. In addition, the U.S. Peace Corps and the State Department's Narcotic Affairs Section operate sizable programs in Ecuador. Total U.S. assistance to Ecuador amounted to over $70 million in 2010.

The United States is Ecuador's principal trading partner. In 2010, Ecuador exported about $6.04 billion in products to the U.S., more than a 30% increase over 2009, and accounting for about 35% of Ecuador's total exports. For over 15 years Ecuador has benefited from duty-free entry for many of its exports under the Andean Trade Preferences Act (ATPA) and received additional trade benefits under the Andean Trade Promotion and Drug Eradication Act (ATPDEA) in 2002. The U.S. Congress approved a number of extensions of those benefits. However, the ATPDEA expired on February 12, 2011. In May 2004 Ecuador entered into negotiations for an Andean free trade agreement with the U.S., Colombia, and Peru, but negotiations between the U.S. and Ecuador lapsed in 2006. The Correa administration has stated it has no interest in negotiating a free trade agreement with the United States, but has expressed interest in negotiating a “trade for development agreement.”

The United States exported $5.4 billion in goods to Ecuador in 2010, a 38% increase over 2009, accounting for about 26% of Ecuador's imports. Ecuador is the 39th-largest market for U.S. exports. Major U.S. exports to Ecuador include machinery, chemicals and fertilizers, computers and electronic equipment, petroleum products, transportation equipment, and paper. The best prospects for U.S. firms are in the printing and graphic arts, construction equipment, automotive parts, cosmetics, medical equipment, telecommunications equipment, and travel and tourism sectors. U.S. firms remain competitive and successful in many sectors of the market.

Although there are problems with money laundering, border controls, and illegal immigration, Ecuador shares U.S. concern over narco-trafficking and the activities of illegal armed groups. The government has maintained Ecuador virtually free of coca production since the mid-1980s, and is working to combat money laundering and the transshipment of drugs and chemicals essential to the processing of cocaine (with U.S. support). Ecuador also gives priority to combating child labor and trafficking in persons. The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and Financial Action Task Force of South America are evaluating a new money laundering law enacted by Ecuador in 2010. Meanwhile, Ecuador remains on FATF’s list of countries that have strategic anti-money laundering and counterterrorism finance deficiencies they are working to address.

Ecuador claims a 320-kilometer-wide (200-mi.) territorial sea. The United States, in contrast, claims a 12-mile boundary and jurisdiction for the management of coastal fisheries up to 320 kilometers (200 mi.) from its coast, but excludes highly migratory species. Although successive Ecuadorian governments have declared a willingness to explore possible solutions to this issue, the U.S. and Ecuador have yet to resolve fundamental differences concerning the recognition of territorial waters.

Ecuador and the U.S. agreed in 1999 to a 10-year arrangement whereby U.S. military surveillance aircraft could use the airbase at Manta, Ecuador, as a Forward Operating Location (FOL) to detect drug-trafficking flights and drug-laden fishing vessels in the region. The Ecuadorian Government informed the United States in July 2008 that it would not renew the lease for the Forward Operating Location when it expired in November 2009. The US ceased these counternarcotics flights in July and departed the FOL in September 2009.

In February 2009, the Government of Ecuador expelled two U.S. Embassy officials who administered U.S. assistance to specialized police units. Ecuadoran President Correa insisted that the U.S. Embassy officials had offended Ecuador with "foul practices of agencies and departments that contradicted the policy stated by Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton." He described Obama/Clinton policy as one of "peace, reconciliation, consensus, and respect for the self-determination and especially sovereignty of the peoples of the world."

A Department of State spokesperson rejected any suggestion of wrongdoing by Embassy staff. Correa's continued condemnation of U.S. Embassy actions, combined with a lack of US response since the Department statement on February 19, led many Ecuadorians to conclude that U.S. Embassy officials were caught doing wrong and deserved expulsion. On April 5, 2011, the Government of Ecuador declared the United States Ambassador to Ecuador, Heather M. Hodges, persona non grata under Article 9 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.

On April 7, the U.S. Government took reciprocal action, informing Ecuador's Ambassador to the United States, Luis Benigno Gallegos Chiriboga, of the decision to declare him persona non grata under Article 9(1) of the Vienna Convention. The United States and Ecuador maintained relations at the Charge d'Affaires level for the time being.

On April 26, 2012, the United States Senate confirmed Adam E. Namm as U. S. Ambassador to Ecuador. Prior to his appointment as Ambassador, he was the Director of the Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations. A career member of the Senior Foreign Service, Mr. Namm joined the Department of State in 1987. He has served in Islamabad, Bogota, Dhahran and Santo Domingo, and in various domestic assignments.

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