The European Union completed negotiations on Thursday (17 July) on a trade deal with the Ecuador that will eliminate tariffs for most of its exports to its top trading partner, the Andean nation's trade minister said.
Francisco Rivadeneira stated that the EU will extend a system of preferential tariffs that benefit Ecuador's exports and which had been due to expire in December, until the new trade deal takes effect in the second half of 2016.
"After almost four years of work, finally we have reached a balanced agreement with the European Union," Rivadeneira said in comments from Brussels sent to Ecuadorian media by his ministry, without further detail on the content of the deal.
The agreement must be approved by the European Parliament and Ecuador's national assembly.
The European Union is the biggest buyer of Ecuador's exports, excluding its oil, which totaled $3 billion (€2.2 billion) in 2013.
Ecuador is an important supplier to the EU of canned tuna and tropical fruit juice among other foods. It also exports bananas and other fruits, cut flowers, coffee, cocoa and nuts to the 28-country bloc.
"It will boost our bilateral trade and investment, and act as an important driver for development in Ecuador," said Karel de Gucht, the EU trade commissioner.
EU trade with Ecuador reach €4.9 billion in 2013, €2.3 billion was exports and and 2.5 billion import. Bananas accounted for some 30% of trade.
The trade agreement follows similar deals with other Andean countries, Peru and Colombia, in 2010.