Latin American exporters have reacted with alarm at a decision by the Ecuadorean government to raise import tariff surcharge on fruit and vegetables in a move to protect the country’s balance of payments in the wake of falling oil revenues.
The measures will see tariffs on a range of fruits and vegetables, including citrus, asparagus, avocados, apples and watermelons, increase from 5 per cent to 45 per cent from 11 March for a period of 15 months. In all some 2,800 imported foodstuffs and other products are affected.
Chilean exporter association Asoex immediately expressed its concern over the Ecuadorean government’s “unilateral action”. Ecuador is one of Chile’s main markets within Latin America, importing 4.5m-4.9m cartons of fruit a year with an FOB value of US$70m, and Asoex president Ronald Bown claimed the measure will impact some US$35-40m worth of exports.
“We are in contact with the authorities of the Economic Directorate of the Foreign Ministry (Direcon), as we analyse the situation and decide on what action to take,” Bown said. “Given the existence of a complementary economic agreement between Chile and Ecuador and the fact that the trade balance between the two countries is favourable to Ecuador by around US$2bn we question whether these measures are compatible with WTO rules.”