QUITO - Ecuador will aim to conclude a trade agreement with the EU by early 2014, President Rafael Correa said Friday, stressing it would not lead to an outright free trade pact. “We will negotiate and seek to sign an accord with the European Union, but not at any price,” the socialist leader said in an interview with La Voz de Arenillas radio in Ecuador.
Correa in May 2009 called off talks with the EU, saying that the trade deal then being mooted was in fact a free trade agreement despite “whatever pretty name” the Brussels-based bloc was putting on it. The Ecuadoran president said talks with the EU—which already has free trade agreements with Colombia and Peru—would resume in January.
Correa has declared his opposition to free trade pacts, arguing that they harm the development of local industry. Ecuador is the world’s biggest banana exporter and the EU is one of its top markets. “We hope to reach an agreement by the beginning of next year,” he said, noting that his country had “red lines” on public spending. Ecuador spends at least $5 billion to help small- and medium-sized businesses.