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Outgoing Ecuador trade minister presses for deal with U.S.

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With just a short time left in office, Ecuadorian Trade Minister Iván Ontaneda hopes to put his country and the United States on a path toward a free trade agreement. In an interview with Morning Trade, Ontaneda said a deal would help put Ecuador on a level playing field with Colombia and Peru, its two Andean neighbors that already have FTAs with the United States.

But his drive comes in the midst of a run-off presidential election in which leftist economist Andrés Arauz is leading his conservative rival Guillermo Lasso by a nearly 10-point margin, according to a poll conducted earlier this month. Arauz is the candidate of former President Rafael Correa’s Union of Hope party, which favors state-led development projects and social spending funded largely by commodities exports. Current Ecuadorian President Lenín Moreno reversed many of Correa’s policies and adopted a more free-market approach.

GSP not enough: Still, Ontaneda said he believes whichever candidate wins in April would want to pursue talks on a free trade agreement with the U.S. Ecuador currently has duty free access for many goods under the Generalized System of Preferences program, but that’s not as comprehensive as a free trade agreement would be.

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