Ways and Means Democrats Find Trump Administration’s Approach to Ecuador Negotiations “Deeply Troubling”

Dec 9, 2020
Press Release
Members cite the questionable post-election timing of the talks, lack of consultation with Congress, and failure to address critical bilateral issues

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, 22 Ways and Means Democrats, led by Committee Chairman Richard E. Neal (D-MA) and Ways and Means Trade Subcommittee Chairman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), raised concerns to U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Robert E. Lighthizer regarding the Trump Administration’s hasty trade negotiations with Ecuador and failure to consult with Congress as part of that process. Yesterday, Ambassador Lighthizer signed a new Protocol on Trade Rules and Transparency, updating the U.S.- Ecuador Trade and Investment Council Agreement. Though the Ways and Means members expressed their support for active engagement with Ecuador, they noted that they found the timing, speed, and manner of the Administration’s approach to be deeply troubling. 
“On November 19, USTR issued a statement outlining the United States and Ecuador’s intention to conclude a negotiation regarding certain trade rules and transparency before the end of this year,” wrote the lawmakers in their letter to USTR. “These negotiations appear to have only recently been initiated, yet you concluded an agreement with your Ecuadorian counterparts yesterday, December 8. Thus, nearly the whole negotiation, if not its entirety, was conducted after the U.S. presidential election occurred and in less than two months.”
The members acknowledged that “Ecuador is an important trading partner of the United States and is a key economic, diplomatic, and strategic actor in Latin America,” but stressed that proactive work with the nation “must be deliberative, thoughtful, and take into account the wide range of bilateral issues between the countries and the priorities of the U.S. government.”
Specific issues of concern the Ways and Means Democrats raised in their letter include Ecuador’s: 

  • Long history of deforestation and engaging in harmful fishing practices, including illegal, unreported or unregulated fishing activities; 
  • Ineffective enforcement of labor rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining; 
  • Over-dependence on China, including $5 billion in debt owed to the nation; and
  • Treatment of basic human rights, including the use of excessive force against demonstrators. 

“Consultations with Congress would have presented the appropriate forum to grapple with these issues and the ability to work together to develop an effective approach to negotiations with Ecuador,” added the members. “In our view, the Administration’s failure to consult Congress is against its own interests. Lasting and meaningful trade agreements rely on congressional input and support. We urge the Administration to immediately engage with Congress to develop a negotiating strategy that effectively responds to the key issues in the U.S.-Ecuador relationship.”
Full text of the letter is available HERE