China and Ecuador have signed a new free trade agreement (FTA) that is expected to boost bilateral ties and give Beijing an increased influence in the region.
It could see the value of non-oil exports from Ecuador to China increase by between $3 billion and $4 billion over the next decade, according to the country's trade ministry, with Beijing gaining preferential treatment to goods including agricultural and agro-industrial products such as shrimp, bananas, cut flowers, cocoa and coffee.
While more than 90 percent of exports will now be tariff-free, around 800 products will still be subject to trade barriers in order to protect local industries.
Ecuador's production, trade, investment and fishing minister Julio José Prado said: "This signed document is a reflection of the mandate of the presidents of both countries. It puts Ecuador on the map of Asia and safeguards the most sensitive sectors."
China’s trade minister Wang Wentao added that it will provide an opportunity to "widen cooperation" between the two countries.
The Financial Times reported that last year, bilateral trade between China and Ecuador totalled around $12 billion, with exports to China worth $5.7 billion, up 58 percent from 2021, and imports from China valued at $6.4 billion, mostly in the form of industrial materials.
China's commerce ministry also noted that Ecuador remains an important partner in Beijing's Belt and Road Initiative, adding the deal sends "a positive signal to the international community to support multilateralism and free trade".
Beijing's state news agency Xinhua added that it will enhance trade exchanges and bilateral relations, providing mutual benefits to both nations.
The deal still needs to be ratified by the Ecuadorian parliament, but if approved, it will mean the country becomes the fourth Latin American nation to sign an FTA with China, following Costa Rica, Chile and Peru.