César Litardo, president of the National Assembly of Ecuador.
While in China, Litardo visited the country’s technology giant Huawei, and met with representatives of the electric vehicles manufacturer BYD. He also found time in his busy schedule to talk to China Today on a wide range of issues, including how to improve dialogue with Chinese legislators and open channels of communication in the fields of agriculture and hi-tech innovation. The following is an edited excerpt of the interview:
César Litardo, president of the National Assembly of Ecuador.
China Today (CT): What is the main purpose of your visit to China?
César Litardo (CL): In the first place, Ecuador and China will celebrate the 40th anniversary of the establishment of the bilateral diplomatic relations. We are at a moment in history in which our two countries have been able to find an effective means of cooperation. In this regard, we also have to mention the visit of Ecuador’s President Lenin Moreno to China last year, which opened the door for us to sign several cooperation documents, which also included the relationship between parliaments. It is important for the parliaments of both countries to exchange experiences regarding cooperation and legislation, and for this in turn to boost and enhance diplomatic relations between both countries.
CT: What is your view on the development of China in the last seven decades?
CL: I would like to congratulate the people of the PRC on this anniversary. I believe that these 70 years, in which politics and work have followed a clear path aimed at development, have enabled the country to make significant progress, especially during the last 40 years, in which there has been an even greater focus on growth. We have all watched China’s economic development, seen lots of jobs created, and observed a country which has opened its doors to the world in order to work in a significant manner. This is why we are at a time in which we can strengthen our relations. This is fundamental. We have received an important gesture of hospitality from the Chinese people and its authorities, as well as a gesture of friendship, which leaves us very gratified during our first visit to this beautiful country.
CT: We know that as president of Ecuador’s National Assembly, you are busy modernizing the institution technologically. What opportunities for cooperation with China in the technological field do you think could open up?
CL: It is evident that the world now is advancing towards the use of technology in an ever increasing manner. In this sense, China has made great breakthroughs in terms of technological progress, which is why we would be very interested to cooperate in this area. We are renovating all of our National Assembly’s digital and technological aspects, not only for the operation of the Assembly, but also in regard to the media outlets it manages. That is why part of this visit also focuses on promoting this [technological cooperation]. One of our objectives is that in the near future people will be able to stream committee and plenary sessions thanks to our new mobile app.
CT: What measures are needed to further political communication with Chinese authorities?
CL: This is something we are already working on as part of this visit. As I was saying earlier, next year Ecuador and China will celebrate the 40th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties, and in that context, we will work on certain issues such as parliamentary exchanges to learn about each other’s experiences in terms of proceedings. We will also have the opportunity to follow the processes of improving the commercial relations between both countries.
In addition, it is important for Ecuador to have the necessary laws that will generate incentives to attract foreign investment. Chinese investment plays a crucial role as part of this process in our country.
Ecuador’s pavilion at the second China International Import Expo in early November. Dong Ning
CT: You come from an agricultural area, Los Ríos Province. On your twitter account, you define yourself as “a man of the agricultural world.” How do you view agricultural products from your country making their way into the Chinese market?
CL: You know, more than 80 percent of my province’s income comes from agriculture. It is a province in which 55 percent of the population lives in rural areas, and we are also the province which produces the highest number of bananas in Ecuador, so there is a lot of potential.
I believe we have to work on various aspects. First, increase the exportation of agricultural products to China, and then seek ways of cooperating in order to give these goods added value.
Part of the potential we see in China is due to its internal market of 1.4 billion people, who need food provisions day after day. Bananas are an example of that potential. Shrimp is another great example. There are also other products that we would like to introduce to China, such as dragon fruit and avocados. I think there is a great opportunity for business regarding Ecuadorian roses, which, I think, are the best in the world. In this manner, we need to expand fields where we can work together to enhance cooperation and exportation.
A study carried out by an Ecuadorian university estimates that we could double our exports to China, especially in the agricultural field, due to China’s vast market in which there are still many opportunities to be explored.
CT: As we understand it, Chinese automobile brands are already the second most sold in your country. What do you make of the presence of Chinese companies in Ecuador? In which ways has the Ecuadorian legal framework fostered the arrival of more Chinese companies and investment?
CL: I think there are various things to be analyzed. I believe that approximately 120 Chinese companies are working throughout different sectors in Ecuador, ranging all the way from hydroelectricity and agriculture to the automobile industry. There is enormous potential. Ninety percent of the electric cars on the road in China are made domestically, and the country takes up more than 40 percent of the global electric car market. In Ecuador, we have a legislation which will oblige all new vehicles for public transportation entering the country to be electric from the year 2025. Approximately 15 percent of Ecuador’s current automobile market is dominated by China, and last year, roughly 137,000 Chinese cars were sold in Ecuador.
We want to work in alignment with an environmental commitment. This implies making the transition from traditional cars that emit carbon dioxide to environmentally-friendly ones, as is the case with Chinese cars. As we can see, there are many paths through which we can enhance relations between both countries.
CT: During your visit, you attended a conference at the China Agricultural University and were able to meet Ecuadorian students living in Beijing. What did you say to the students?
CL: Yes, for me it was a very pleasant visit. I also come from the academic world. As a matter of fact, my first job after graduating from university was as a university professor. Since I come from an agricultural province, as I mentioned, it was very gratifying for me to visit the China Agricultural University.
Academic contacts are always important, and we took the opportunity to meet with various Ecuadorian students who are specializing in diverse fields here in China, agriculture, diplomacy, economy, and even medicine. It was important to motivate them to persevere in their goal of professional development, even though they are far from their homeland, so that once they return, they can also contribute to Ecuador’s development.