Inequities in Ecuador; Trade Preferences Are Unwarranted

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Byline: THE WASHINGTON TIMES

U.S. trade preferences should not be awarded to nations where corruption runs rampant and American companies are preyed upon. Today, the Senate Finance Committee becomes the second congressional committee this week to consider whether to renew the Andean Trade Preference Act. The committee ought to exclude the government of Ecuador from some or all of the act's benefits.

Since 1991, the Andean Trade Preference Act has promoted trade with Colombia, Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador, but when Congress renewed it last year, it explicitly called for semi-annual reviews of Ecuador's status as a result of numerous disturbing developments there. This year, Congress should get tougher still because governance in Quito is deteriorating.

On Tuesday, Transparency International released its 2009 Corruption Perceptions Index, which the organization describes as a measure of domestic, public sector corruption. Ecuador flunked. On a 10-point scale, with 10 being the least corrupt, Ecuador scored an awful 2.2. According to Transparency International's measures, any score below 3.0 amounts to rampant corruption. That put it 28th out of 31 nations in the Americas. Out of 180 nations rated worldwide, Ecuador ranked as more corrupt than 145.

In recent months, Ecuador's government, led by President Rafael Correa, has waived the patent rights of U. …