After years of complicated negotiations, Ecuador signed a trade deal with Colombia, Peru and the European Union Friday, ending a process that began in January 2009.
"Today, Ecuador is becoming a business associate of the EU and it is doing this with a strategic long-term vision and within a context of respect, friendship, sovereignty, and always looking for mutual benefit," said Ecuador's Vice President Jorge Glas, during a ceremony in Brussels.
Europe was Ecuador’s second-largest trading partner last year, according to the EU Council, and the new deal will provide access to the market for Ecuadorean imports of fisheries, banana, cut flowers and cacao. Europe will export cars, spirits and dairy to a market of some 16 million people.
"Today's signature is very good news and it proves that the European Union delivers in its key policy area of free and fair trade," EU Council President Peter Ziga of Slovakia said.
The EU plans to finalize its arrangement with Ecuador before the end of the year in order for a provisional application to begin as early as next January.
In the deal, Ecuador sees the possibility of boosting its dollarized economy as the South American country has been through a difficult year with an earthquake that devastated its coast last April, along with a fall in crude oil prices and the struggling economic situation of its neighboring countries.
It also offers the small Andean country to diversify its economy away from the United States, whose foreign relations have just entered a new period of uncertainty following the victory of Donald Trump to the presidency.