US trade agency raps Ecuador over Chevron pollution lawsuit


In its annual report, USTR said the program has “continued to make progress” in achieving the goal of providing sustainable economic alternatives to drug-crop production. But it agreed with President Rafael Correa's critics that “developments in the past few years give rise to concerns about the government’s long-term commitment to international arbitration for the settlement of investor disputes.”

“The administration is monitoring developments in connection with these matters under the relevant ATPA eligibility criteria,” USTR said in its report.

At issue is Ecuador's refusal to abide by the judgment of an international tribunal convened under the U.S.-Ecuador Bilateral Investment Treaty that ordered Ecuador to prevent enforcement of an $18-billion judgment against Chevron for three decades of pollution in the Ecuadorian Amazon. Correa has reportedly called the tribunal's ruling a “monstrosity,” and an appellate court said it does not consider itself bound by its ruling.

Ecuador's ambassador to the United States, Nathalie Cely, drew attention to the fact that the report affirmed that Ecuador continues to meet all ATPDEA eligibility criteria, including that the government “continues to participate in pending international arbitration cases.”

"We are pleased that this finding validates Ecuador’s complete and total commitment to honoring its international obligations, despite attempts by independent interest groups to further their own personal interests by casting doubt on both this commitment and the mutually beneficial effects of the ATPDEA," Cely said in a statement. "Through the ATPDEA and other ongoing forms of bilateral and people-to-people cooperation between the U.S. and Ecuador, we look forward to continuing in our common efforts to make the Americas a strong, vibrant, and safe place."

The Ecuadorian government requested in 2009 that the National Assembly terminate Ecuador's Bilateral Investment Treaty with the United States, but the vote has yet to take place. The judgment against Chevron represents a massive windfall for the country, but losing duty-free access to the U.S. market would come with a heavy price: Ecuadorian exports under ATPA represented 61 percent of total exports to the United States between 2000 and 2010, according to the Ecuadorian embassy's own comments to USTR, and the trade deal supports 320,000 Ecuadoran jobs and helps maintain political stability.