U.S., Ecuador agree to establish fair trade working group

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States and Ecuador have agreed to establish a fair trade working group and explore potential negotiations on labor, environment, and digital trade, U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai’s office said on Tuesday.

Tai met Ecuador’s commerce minister Julio Jose Prado in Washington on Friday where they also agreed to hold a new meeting of their Trade and Investment Council in the first half of 2023 to review developments.

The talks represent a potential expansion of a U.S.-Ecuador protocol on trade rules and transparency signed in December 2020 by Tai’s predecessor, Robert Lighthizer.

At the time, the pact was hailed as an expansion of earlier customs, regulation and anti-corruption agreements, but a long way from a comprehensive trade agreement.

“The protocol is a centerpiece of the bilateral work achieved under the Trade and Investment Council (TIC) and new negotiations intend to pursue a worker-centered trade policy that fosters greater trade, investment, and cooperation between both countries,” USTR said in its statement.

The United States and Ecuador had total two-way goods trade of $13.17 billion in 2021, with a bilateral U.S. trade deficit of $3.15 billion, according to U.S. Census Bureau data.

Top U.S. imports from Ecuador were petroleum fuels, fish and seafood, and edible fruits and nuts including bananas, according to USTR. Top U.S. exports to Ecuador were petroleum fuels, machinery, plastics, soybean meal, wheat and food waste.

(Reporting by David Lawder and Ismail Shakil; Editing by Chris Reese and David Gregorio)