June 25, 2013

Flowers, vegetables could affect Snowden's fate

The Associated Press

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Ecuador's President Rafael Correa, right, greets passersby from the balcony of the presidential palace during the weekly, The Change of the Guard, in Quito, Ecuador, Monday, June 24, 2013. Correa declared Monday that national sovereignty and universal principles of human rights would govern his decision on granting asylum to Edward Snowden, powerful hints that the former National Security Agency contractor is welcome in Ecuador despite potential repercussions from Washington. Correa said on Twitter that "we will take the decision that we feel most suitable, with absolute sovereignty." Vice president Jorge Glass is pictured left. (AP Photo/Dolores Ochoa)

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"On a commercial basis, the U.S. and Ecuador are guided by pragmatism, independent of economic agendas. Businessmen set priorities based on cost-benefit and because of that I don't think there are going to be major consequences, because the commercial line is separate from the geopolitical one," said Pablo Davalos, an economics professor and analyst at the Catholic University in Quito.

But on the streets of the capital, people appeared to be increasingly feeling that their country should keep out of the affair.

"We shouldn't give him asylum," said Fredy Prado, a retired shoe company manager. "Every country needs to take care of itself, its own security."

The U.S. administration is supposed to decide by Monday whether to grant Ecuador export privileges under the Generalized System of Preferences, a system meant to spur development and growth in poorer countries. The deadline was deadline set long before the Snowden affair but conveniently timed for the U.S.

More broadly, a larger trade pact allowing reduced tariffs on more than $5 billion in annual exports to the U.S. is up for congressional renewal before July 21. While approval of the Andean Trade Preference Act has long been seen as doubtful in Washington, Ecuador has been lobbying strongly for its renewal in recent months.

"I hope the government doesn't decide to give Snowden asylum, because obviously this isn't in Ecuador's interests," said Roberto Aspiazu, chairman of a coalition of Ecuador's largest industries. "Hopefully the issue will be looked at from the perspective of Ecuador's interests, and I don't think it's in our country's interest to unnecessarily confront the U.S."


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