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ecuador ambassador to u.s. in chicago

Friday 14 December, 2012

Nathalie Cely Suárez, Ambassador of the Republic of Ecuador to the United States, was in town to talk about ECUADOR AND LATIN AMERICA: NEW HEIGHTS, which was hosted by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.

Ecuador’s economy is vibrant & growing @ 4% per annum as they are focused on sustainable environmental responsibilities & investing in their young people with education.  10% of the world’s foreign direct investment (FDI) or $150B has been invested in Latin America.    They are trying to think “out of the box” about a 3rd way of development.  The country is rich in minerals, such as copper, gold, & oil, but the question is “How to develop the economy where there is still so much inequality?”  The economy is well managed, with debt <20% of GDP, thus with low leverage.  They are investing in their talent & infrastructure, specifically roads & airports.  Trade has doubled in the last 5 years.  They’ve invested 1% of GDP in health care, but that has risen to 2 1/2 %

Ecuador is a complex country which cannot be understood by the mainstream by just reading the headlines.  They have taken on a transformational agenda as a national project.  It’s 1 of the most bio-diverse countries in the world, with protected areas the size of the country of South Korea.  Their current president is from the left & has transformed elementary & secondary education.  Their Excellency Program pays tuition for Ecuadorian students to the top 100 universities in the world, which helps level the playing field.  Changes in production methods & the energy sector have led the country to be powered 90% by hydroelectric power in 2018.

Chicago does have direct flights to Ecuador.    Ecuador is working on strengthening ties with America in general & in Chicago specifically.  There are big projects which have potential for local firms in architectural design & knowledge transfer.  A new airport is being built near Quito with a convention center.  Government City is also an opportunity.  Knowledge City is being built in the north.  The Ecuadoran government has changed 3 articles in their constitution to change the role of the private sector in their economic model, resulting in expropriations in only rare exceptions.  They are trying to make the private sector more complementary to the public sector.  Oil & mining are still strategic sectors which still do require regulation.

Q&A

  • Those who export natural resources from Ecuador are required to pay taxes, comply with environmental rules, & follow codes for investment, for which there are many incentives
  • Ecuador has a track record of compliance in the rule of law & has avoided all arbitration.  They have their own recompensation channels or fall under international jurisdictions.
  • Despite abolishing taxes to build a rural telecom infrastructure, telecom taxes are still high.
  • Ecuador has opened a new embassy in Qatar to diversify it’s supply markets, just as Chicago is doing.  They are doing outreach in Asia too to seek complementary economies.
  • Taking in Julian Assange was a difficult decision which took 60 days to make.  Ecuador has a history of defending human rights.  England’s threat to enter the small country’s embassy was a threat to their sovereignty.  Ecuador doesn’t defend Assange’s methods, but wants to make sure he is guaranteed a fair trial.  They are in discussions with the Swedes as well.
  • While the US takes the high ground on freedom of the press, free speech is not taken too seriously in Ecuador.  They try to balance honor with freedom while imposing no censorship.  Public officials convicted of breaking these laws must pay double penalties.  Go to the 40 newspapers from Ecuador on the internet to see for yourself.  Ecuador has done a lousy job prosecuting those who persecute the media.  The government isn’t always right, so they are working with US organizations to form some regulations which make sense.
  • Ecuador has 0 tolerance for the FARQ in Colombia, but does target Venezuela as a strategic market as a growing market, but not with an ideological agenda.
  • Ecuador is investing $12B in water & waste-water management projects, so there is plenty of business to be had.
  • China’s influence in Ecuador is huge & the US needs to match the investments of the Chinese.
  • Ecuador is blessed with a pleasant climate which makes modern, efficient, & sustainable agriculture possible there.  The food sector is a priority as they seek to literally move up the food chain to provide more value-added services in that supply chain.

I’ve never been to Ecuador, but my dad has.  1 of his travel bags was knifed & he was cut slightly as it happened.  Otherwise, he didn’t have much else to say, good or bad.

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