QUESTION: U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, thanks for joining us and welcome to Ecuador.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you. It’s great to be with you, Estefani.
QUESTION: The United States and Ecuador have – share a story of cooperation through many years, but the last decade wasn’t in these best terms, if we could say. But now that we’re trying to rebuild, in what ways would you think we can still stand cooperations in areas of mutual interest like security and narcotrafficking?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah, your point is well taken. We had a bad decade. There were many years where the relationship between the two countries wasn’t appreciated. Now it’s completely different. This is fantastic. America is excited about it. The Ecuadorian people are excited by this. This a good thing, and lots of ways we can expand it. First we think there’s more opportunities for Ecuadorian companies to come and be successful in the United States and for American companies to come here and be successful. We think there are enormous opportunities on counternarcotics, to make sure that there is less corruption here in this country and in the region, and fewer drugs coming to the United States of America. We’ve watched good work where Ecuador has come and asked the United States for help on cybersecurity and many other areas, and President Moreno has been fantastic in making sure that this cooperation benefited both countries, both the people of Ecuador and the people of the United States.
QUESTION: Now, how did he do it? We had – 2014, that security cooperation office based in the U.S. embassy was shut down, and that forced some U.S. military personnel to actually leave the country. So one thing was reestablishing an office of security cooperation, military cooperation, and then another thing is a military base. You’re not looking for that.
SECRETARY POMPEO: No, we’re not looking for that. We’re looking to do what the Ecuadorian Government asked us to do, to assist the Ecuadorian people. We’ll do this well and we’ll do it in a way that respects the rights of the people of Ecuador, and we’ll help this government deliver the things that it has promised to deliver on behalf of the Ecuadorian people, and in the same way this will be good for the people of the United States of America. This is – it is truly a new era in our relationship, but I think that is powerful and important for our two countries, and importantly, as well for the region.
QUESTION: You just had a meeting with our president. Did you – what did you discuss about those aspects?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah, we talked about a lot of things. We talked about the challenges that Ecuador is facing from the crisis that is taking place in Venezuela. The Ecuadorian people have been heroic in allowing and taking care of now 350,000-plus refugees from Venezuela. This is a crisis of epic proportions in Venezuela. The United States is trying to do its part to reduce the risk in the region and around the world from the Maduro regime. It’s time for him to leave. At the same time, we’ve provided over $30 million here in Ecuador to assist in Ecuador’s ability to handle this influx of people who have left Venezuela. But we talked about a wide range of topics that ranged from good government reforms to economic cooperation, growing our two economies. Just about everything.
QUESTION: Talking about economics, the United States is Ecuador’s principal trading partner. We still benefit from doing free tariff to certain products under the GSP until 2020, but we have our neighbors like Colombia having a trade promotion agreement. How far are we from that?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah, I don’t know exactly the timing, but we’re prepared. We’ll have a – what’s called the Trade and Investment Council meet here before too long, in the coming months. We’ll begin to work our way towards that. We want to make sure, as President Trump has made clear, in every country with which America does business, we want to make sure that each country has the opportunity to grow its own economy so that you can create jobs and wealth for our kids and our grandkids both places. So a trade agreement will achieve that and we’ll continue to work towards it. The timeline I think remains unknown.
QUESTION: Now, what we had with the European Union, for example, was an agreement, a multilateral agreement —
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah.
QUESTION: — kind of like with Colombia, our neighbors, like that. Would you think that would work for the region also?
SECRETARY POMPEO: It might, but I think the first step would be for the two of us, the two countries, to get our bilateral agreement, an agreement just between our two countries, in the right place. At that point in time I think we can do what’s more complicated and it’ll take many more years, as those agreements did, to ultimately achieve.
QUESTION: Now, this government has expressed interest in improving bilateral relations with the United States. The country will receive 10 billion loans from multilateral institutions like the World Bank, like the Inter-American Development Bank, the IMF, and most of them were subject to approval actually in Washington also. Were those loans ever conditioned, for example, to the Ecuadorian Government’s decisions like to give up on Assange the – after seven years?
SECRETARY POMPEO: No. We – those were economic decisions made to create opportunities for the Ecuadorian people. They weren’t conditioned on second- or third-order issues. These were economic decisions. In each case – I think as you described them, if I listened correctly to your question, in each case the United States was incredibly supportive of those resources being made available to Ecuador so it could continue to grow its economy.
QUESTION: And would you say that’s because there’s actually a new idea of trusting on how Ecuador is making decisions?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yes, I think that’s definitely true. I think President Moreno and his government have demonstrated their trustworthiness, their capacity to continue to deliver for the Ecuadorian people and to do so in a way that wasn’t corrupt, that was transparent and had all the hallmarks of good democracy. This is an important thing and you – it’s very difficult to grow an economy under conditions that are different from that, and we have great confidence in President Moreno and his team.
QUESTION: In the executive summary of the U.S. Department of State report of reviewing Ecuador – this is 2017 – the U.S. talked about investment climate statements in Ecuador. They mentioned corruption like a serious problem in Ecuador. Actually, they point at two high-profile cases we had in Ecuador with petroleum, Petroecuador and Odebrecht. Now, that was 2017. You still have same overview or things you think we still need to work on?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Well, I don’t want to comment on particular cases. I can say this: We have enormous confidence in President Moreno and his team and that they are moving this country in the right direction and acting in ways that are good for the Ecuadorian people, good for democracy, good for the things that America values. And so you can see that in all the engagements we’ve had between the United States since President Trump took office in the beginning of 2017 through today. It’s a sea change in our relationship and will prove powerful for Ecuador, for the United States, and for the region.
QUESTION: U.S. Secretary of State, thanks for coming. Thank you.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you very much, ma’am.
QUESTION: Have a safe trip.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you.