Thursday, June 27, 2013

Reconsidering Ecuador

Since I am planning to move to Ecuador (probably Quito) later this year, I have been following events there fairly closely of late and trying to learn as much as I can about the country. The recent events involving Edward Snowden’s request for asylum there have been of particular interest, of course.

If Ecuador gives Snowden asylum, regardless of how I may feel about him or his actions or whether he deserves asylum, it could have an impact on US expats in Ecuador (meaning: me).

Here’s the situation – Ecuadorian exports are currently given tariff preference in the US under the Andean Trade Promotion and Drug Eradication Act, which happens to be coming up for renewal next month. If Ecuador gives asylum to Snowden, it seems unlikely the preferences would be renewed.
Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, promised Wednesday that he would block renewal of the pact should Snowden be granted asylum. 
"Our government will not reward countries for bad behavior," he said in a statement, following other lawmakers who have spent years saying that the pact should be allowed to lapse, partly down to the country's links with Iran.
This matters considerably to Ecuador, since more than 50% of their exports go to the US. More than 100,000 Ecuadorians, for one example, work in the flower-growing business, almost all of which is based on export to the US).

If the US cuts off imports from Ecuador, Ecuadorians will lose jobs. With the government controlling the media, one can be certain that this will be trumpeted loudly (and every job loss, related to exports or not, will be blamed on the US).

So here’s the question: How unpleasant will things become for American expats if/when Ecuadorians start losing their jobs? This situation is making me think twice about my plans to move to Quito later this year. With luck, there will be some clarity about how things will play out before I have to make a decision.

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