Quito, Sep 9 (EFE).- Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso on Thursday said that he wants to sign free trade agreements with the world’s largest 10 economies as part of a strategy to bring Ecuador into the Pacific Alliance.
“Our aim is very clear: Signing free trade agreements with at least the world’s 10 largest economies. This includes the United States, China, Japan, South Korea and also the Euro-Asia group,” the president said in an interview with EFE at the Carondelet Palace in Quito.
Regarding entry into the Pacific Alliance, Lasso said that “My priority is Ecuador’s entry into the Pacific Alliance to be able to create trade and investment opportunities,” adding that he sees Mexico as the port of entry for this regional grouping, which also includes Chile, Colombia and Peru.
In addition, the 65-year-old Lasso emphasized that he has undertaken “the largest logistical mobilization” in recent years in his country, thanks to the anti-Covid vaccine support provided by the United States, China, Russia, Spain and Canada.
“Vaccine diplomacy is nothing other than direct frontal and ongoing contact with friendly countries like the US, China, Russia, the support of Spain and Canada,” the president said.
Lasso noted that the US had donated about 10 percent of the required vaccines, China had provided 65 percent and the huge effort to vaccinate the public – 75 percent of Ecuadorians age 16 or older within 100 days – had been possible thanks to the cooperation of various sectors of society.
“On May 24 in my inauguration speech I told Ecuadorians that we would undertake the biggest logistical mobilization in recent times. That is what we did,” he said.
He also emphasized the world record set by Ecuador on July 15 of vaccinating 2.5 percent of the country’s entire population in one day and the feat achieved on Aug. 17 of administering 407,530 second doses.
When Lasso took office, just 3 percent of the Ecuadorian population of 17 million had been fully vaccinated.
Starting next Monday, Ecuador will start vaccinating teens ages 12-15 and is considering administering a third booster dose starting next year, although the near-term goal is to get 80 percent of the public fully vaccinated by year-end, he said.
Meanwhile, Lasso said that he will travel to Spain “soon” – although he did not specify a date – seeking to relaunch Ecuador’s relationship with the private sector and investors there, noting that Quito has a “portfolio of about $30 billion in investments in petroleum, mining, infrastructure, energy (and) telecommunications” for Spanish companies looking to invest in the South American country.
“When I visit Spain, I’ll give priority to contracts with the Spanish private sector, the investment sector, so that (investment) comes to Ecuador and can help us push development via public-private alliances,” he said.
Lasso also said he regretted the resignation of Ecuador’s ambassador-designate to Spain, Pascual del Cioppo, after making controversial statements about contracts that the embassy in Madrid had with the Kinema legal cooperative, saying that the resulting “misunderstandings” with the Spanish government were not something his administration had desired.
Spanish media outlet OKDiario had reported last month that Del Cioppo had allegedly received instructions from Lasso to hush up the matter.
The Ecuadorian president added that the Foreign Ministry “is working on” clearing up the controversy and will turn over all information it gathers to the Attorney General’s Office.
In the interview, Lasso went on to emphasize the agreement reached between Quito and the International Monetary Fund to unblock the arrival of funding from abroad and freeing up $4.5 billion to finance assorted projects.
Lasso said that his administration’s economic recovery plans, of which the IMF agreement is a part, include projects geared toward fostering human development and an all-out fight against chronic childhood malnutrition.
The president said that the accord with the IMF will allow the Ecuadorian treasury to have a period of calm through 2022, but he added that a great effort must be made to seek resources for the fight against corruption and improved management of public resources.
He said that the economic reactivation strategy will enable the country’s GDP to grow by at least 5 percent during 2023 and 2024 and to meet the goal of creating two million new jobs during his 2021-2025 mandate.
After criticizing the economic management of the two previous administrations, including that of his predecessor Lenin Moreno, Lasso said that during his mandate the biggest share of the tax burden will fall on those with the most resources.