BETWEEN December 11 and 13, 2018, the president of Ecuador, Lenín Moreno Garcés, paid a state visit to China. Among the many agreements reached between the two countries is a memorandum of understanding for the joint building of the Belt and Road Initiative.
President Moreno explained in his interview with China Today that the main points of his visit were bilateral exchange and tourism.
China Today (CT): This is your first visit to China as president of Ecuador, and it happens to take place during a time when the importance of the relationship China between Latin America appears even clearer. What is the main reason for this state visit and what do you think about the future of this bilateral relationship?
Lenín Moreno Garcés (LMG): We want to further strengthen our relations with China as a strategic partner in order to boost joint development. Our goal is to accomplish two macro-objectives: clearly define our country’s position as an investment destination and open up more markets for our products, which hold high quality standards. It’s very important for us to promote the advantages and benefits which Ecuador offers to investors, with our legal and political security, our growing economy, and solid dollarization system. We’re also enhancing our production and industrial sectors.
On December 13, 2018, the Ecuadorian President (center) attends the launching ceremony of the commemorative postal cover for his state visit to China. Dong Ning
We’ve reached agreements with China for cooperation in criminal matters, agriculture, civil aviation, risks and natural disasters management, reconstruction, commerce, and investment.
Important entrepreneurs, academicians, and union representatives from Ecuador have accompanied us on this trip. Currently, the private sector in Ecuador is a strategic partner of our government.
CT: This year has presented us with a world where protectionism and unilateralism have gained space in some countries. What is Ecuador’s stance about the seeming dilemma between opening-up and protectionism?
LMG: Protectionism and unilateralism are phenomena that lead us to think beyond the present and consider current world conditions. We need to understand the world’s commercial development from within the dynamic of globalization. Economic decisions are made within this process and, for Latin American countries, it is essential to pay attention to ways we can achieve more integration. In Ecuador’s case, we aim to join in new areas of multilateral integration both at the regional and international levels. As a government, we believe that the country must join mechanisms that focus on strengthening commercial relations, integration, and attracting investors. We received approbation from Mexico, Chile, Colombia, and Peru to become an associate member of the Pacific Alliance, and we are working for an upcoming integration into the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
The international community needs to safeguard the role of the international system and specially the United Nations. We support multilateralism and an international trading order that is based on law. Globalization is a process that compels us to transform ourselves, and act faster and more pragmatically. These dynamic economic decisions about opening-up or protectionism lead to deep contemplation of not only our own nations’ future, but also the whole world’s.
CT: You just signed a memorandum of understanding with Xi Jinping about the joint building of the Belt and Road. What expectations do you have about it? What will be Ecuador’s role in this initiative?
LMG: Our expectations of this memorandum as a country are very high, because we are supporters of facilitating, promoting, and protecting investments. The achievements of our country are the results of joint efforts of our people and the management of the economy for the benefit of society. This memorandum of understanding is very ambitious and has world-transcending significance. Our signing of this document denotes that we are looking for an articulated cooperation to strengthen strategic partnership for developing infrastructural and financial connectivity.
We’re engaged in participating in the Belt and Road Initiative, as well as in widening political and cultural relationships with our trade partners. Ecuador aims at expanding various areas in the Sino-Latin American relationship. The optimal route in this process is the maritime one, and through it, the flow of goods that are shipped back and forth between our countries will be strengthened and bring benefits to our economies.
CT: Since 2012, China Today has supported the University Contest of Spanish Written Essays that is held by Ecuador’s Embassy in China. What cultural projects do you hope to keep promoting in China, so more young Chinese people can continue to come in contact with Ecuador?
LMG: We’re really proud that Ecuador, a mega-diverse and multicultural country, has been chosen by thousands of students from around the globe as the place to enhance their academic preparation or to carry out professional, scientific, touristic, and cultural activities. We have a good environment for exploring and learning.
We have many programs that help young people get a better understanding of Ecuadorian culture. In 2019, for example, we expect to develop four specific areas on the basis of the government’s guidelines for the development of the cultural industry: civic commemorations, academic cooperation, artistic activities, and cultural values.
There’s an increase of academic cooperation, like the creation of a digital magazine that gathers together the best research works by outstanding Ecuadorian students pursuing master’s degrees, which is supported by the Cervantes Institute, and the publication of academic studies about Ecuador by the Changzhou University. There will also be ancient language repositories in museums and colleges in both Ecuador and China.
We’ll widen our cultural promotion in broad areas including concerts, culture, gastronomy, ethnic diversity, tourism, and film festivals. Emblematic products from Ecuador, like the “Panama hat” or the tagua will also be promoted in the Chinese market. Furthermore, we’re proud to announce that Ecuadorian literary works will be translated into Chinese in order to inspire a general interest in Ecuadorian aesthetics.
CT: China just held its first International Imports Expo in Shanghai, which was attended by many Equadorian enterprises. How do you think Ecuador should promote its products on the Chinese market?
LMG: Our government looks at the private sector as its main ally in working together to boost our economy and production. The Expo in Shanghai is definitely considered to be the most important expo in the world, and it is always a motivation and challenge for Ecuadorian companies to show their products at these kinds of events. The expo was a platform for Chinese and Ecuadorian enterprises to meet and make bilateral agreements.
Ecuadorian companies found important opportunities in the agro-industry and food industry, as well as possibilities for establishing product distribution links in many regions in China. This event, as well as other important Chinese fairs, missions, business, and gastronomic events are the promotion tools that must be used more thoroughly in order to strongly position Ecuadorian products on this market.
CT: This year is the 40th anniversary of Chinese reform and opening-up. During these 40 years, China has lifted around 740 million people out of poverty. We know that your government is also fighting poverty. What decisions made by China in its struggle against poverty have attracted your government’s attention?
LMG: We acknowledge and appreciate the ways Chinese policies have changed its economy and achieved a reduction in poverty. China has demonstrated its success to the world over the last 40 years. The expansion and diversification of its trade relationships, the market opening-up, and social welfare policies are some of the most prominent achievements of its transformation. We admire China’s resolution to eradicate absolute poverty by the end of 2020 as well as other aspects compatible with Ecuador’s development objectives and foreign policy, such as fighting climate change and corruption.
As the government of Ecuador, we aim to generate public policies that guarantee human rights and bring the attention of citizens to the “A Lifetime” (Toda Una Vida, a development plan that President Lenín Moreno promotes in Ecuador). Therefore we take China as a reference in the strategic and integral vision of rights protection and services provision. Furthermore, we highlight the significant technological advancement in China, which is surely one of the cornerstones of its development. In Ecuador, we want to establish mechanisms that promote technological and scientific development.
CT: Back in August 2016, Ecuador and China agreed upon visa-free visit for Chinese tourists for stays of less than 90 days. As a result, 30,000 Chinese visited Ecuador in 2017, almost doubling the number in 2015. How important do you think Chinese tourism is?
LMG: The Chinese people are admired in our country for their firmness, hardworking spirit, and entrepreneurship. The decision to remove tourist visa requirements to Chinese citizens in 2016 was based on the excellent bilateral relationship Ecuador and China have. It was an effective and positive stimulus for tourist flow, bringing us more foreign exchange earnings. Between 2015 and 2016, Chinese visitors increased from 18,000 to 22,000, and in 2017, the number was 30,000. This demonstrates how their contribution to our economy is increasingly important. I would like to take the opportunity of this interview to encourage more Chinese citizens to visit Ecuador to see all of the natural and touristic wonders in “the country of the four worlds.”