QUITO, ECUADOR – Today, during a bipartisan meeting with Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso and key members of his cabinet, Chairman Smith reiterated the need to increase U.S. engagement in Ecuador to help counter China’s growing influence in the region.
House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Jason Smith (MO-08) made the following statement after the delegation’s bilateral meeting with President Guillermo Lasso, Foreign Minister Juan Carlos Holguin, and Minister of Production Julio Jose Prado Lucio-Paredes:
“We had a productive exchange with President Lasso today about our two countries’ strong and growing relationship. As Ways and Means Chairman, one of my priorities is using America’s trade and tax policy to secure our supply chains and counter China’s growing presence in the developing world, especially in the Western Hemisphere. I made sure to visit Ecuador on my first international trip as Ways and Means Committee Chairman because the U.S.-Ecuador relationship is a high priority.
“Today, we emphasized the importance of our country’s ties with Ecuador and how both countries can become less dependent on China by developing resilient supply chains in the Western Hemisphere. We must use every tool at our disposal, including trade, to counter China’s influence in Latin America, and I shared my concerns with President Lasso about Ecuador’s expanding trade ties with China. Additionally, Ecuador’s import licensing regime and variable tariffs make it very difficult for American farmers, including beef and pork producers, to export to Ecuador. There are opportunities to strengthen our relationship with Ecuador for the benefit of American workers, farmers, small businesses, and our national security. The Biden Administration should seize opportunities to engage with Ecuador and other willing partners in the Americas and around the world to roll back Chinese influence.
China’s Growing Influence in Latin America
China has been using its investments and Belt and Road scheme to expand its presence in Latin America for years, including in Ecuador:
- In 2008, after the Correa government in Ecuador defaulted on the nation’s debt, Chinese state-owned companies offered credit to the Ecuadorian government. Part of the deal was exporting 96,000 barrels of crude oil to China per day.
- In recent years, certain Chinese-sponsored projects, like the Coca Codo Sinclair hydroelectric plant, have been found to be shoddily constructed and the government has struggled to repay loans on those projects.
- Chinese fishing vessels have become increasingly active along the Ecuadorian coast, overfishing the waters which harms local fisherman and contributes to lower prices for American fisherman.
- In January 2023, Ecuador and China announced that they had completed negotiations for a bilateral free trade agreement.