At a press conference during a visit to Ecuador, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and his counterpart Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Mauricio Montalvo were asked about U.S.-China economic competition in the region.
Montalvo emphasized that "as the United States has commercial relations with China, Ecuador can also have them," and also noted that "Ecuador aspires to have agreements with the main economies of the world," "[a]nd firstly, of course, is the United States, ... ."
For his part, Secretary Blinken said that "the partnership between the United States and Ecuador is focused on common interests, shared values, and a positive agenda. It’s not defined by any third country." He also stated: "We are not asking countries to choose between the United States and China, nor, as I’ve said repeatedly, do we seek to contain China or hold it back." Finally, he noted that "if [Chinese] enterprises are asked to do the bidding of the state, they have to do it," and "when it comes to human rights, privacy rights, as well as security, that can pose ... a real challenge."
The full text of the exchange was as follows:
QUESTION: Thank you. Firstly, to Foreign Minister Montalvo, your president has said that he wants to secure a trade deal with China and some other countries. But specifically talking about China, alongside the trade negotiations you’re talking about and trade relations with the United States that you’re discussing, is it possible to have those kind of close trade relations and economic relations with the U.S. at the same time as entering into a trade deal with Beijing?
And to Secretary Blinken, your predecessor in the previous U.S. administration often emphasized in countries, including in Latin America, a stark choice between – for countries between whether they should deal with China or deal with the U.S., which country, which global power should they be closest to. Under your – under this Biden administration, is there a different message that you’re giving to countries like Ecuador when it comes to dealing with China? And is it compatible to have these kind of trade relations with both countries? Thank you.
FOREIGN MINISTER MONTALVO: (Via interpreter) Thank you very much for your question. I would like take advantage for the same, to state that the conversation of this morning, this meeting of – the work meetings of this morning, not only were very productive, very open, but also very direct. And the subject of China was talked to clearly by President Lasso with Secretary Blinken, and we talked very clearly. We shared a position of Ecuador in the approach to China and the role that has been played – China in the vaccination and dialogues that we have had with that government from – also the agreement of – the trade agreement and other elements.
And in that same line, one of the points that coincided was precisely that such as the United States has commercial relations with China, Ecuador can also have them. And that will be inscribed within the policies, foreign policies, of Mr. Lasso translated in this acting that comes from his campaign moments of more Ecuador into the world and more Ecuador into the world, and to show a country that is creating opportunities to all investors of the entire world. And among them, of course, is China, that constitutes a commercial partner. Very important – not as important as the United States, but it’s also very important commercial partners for Ecuador. And, of course, with them, Ecuador, as was manifested by President Lasso to Mr. Blinken, Ecuador aspires to have agreements with the main economies of the world. And firstly, of course, is the United States, but there are also others.
And we mentioned also several numbers of Ecuador that I was looking into having space – in that 80 percent that represents the biggest economies, the 10 most biggest economies in the world, or 60 percent of the population that they – in globe. And in those terms of directness and openness, we have had the conversation this morning, and we have not withheld any factor that are taken forward by Mr. President Lasso within this policy of foreign policy. That is completely realistic but also applied to certain values and principles that we share with the United States.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: And let me add a couple of things to that. First, the partnership between the United States and Ecuador is focused on common interests, shared values, and a positive agenda. It’s not defined by any third country. And we’re focused together on the many things that we talked about throughout this press conference.
And in particular, ultimately, we’re focused together on demonstrating that our democracies can deliver tangible results for our people. That is the test, and that’s the test that we’re working to pass together.
We are not asking countries to choose between the United States and China, nor, as I’ve said repeatedly, do we seek to contain China or hold it back. What we do seek to do is to uphold the highest possible standards as we are engaged around the world.
And so for example, in the case of trade and investment, Mauricio talked about the Build Back Better World program. I mentioned it as well. One of the features of that program is to make sure that as we’re making investments in infrastructure, for example, in different parts of the world we do it to the highest standards – as a race to the top, not a race to the bottom. We do it in a way that, for example, doesn’t burden countries with unmanageable debt. We do it in a way that includes the highest labor and environmental standards. We do it in a way that keeps out corruption. We do it in a way that builds to the highest quality. That’s an affirmative agenda and one I think countries will be very attracted to.
Similarly, as, again, Mauricio said, trade and investment, including with China, is important for all of our countries and mutually beneficial. But there are very narrowly defined areas in which it makes sense for countries to take precautions as they’re looking at investment because unfortunately, in the case of China, there really is no division between purportedly private enterprises and the state. And equally unfortunately, if those enterprises are asked to do the bidding of the state, they have to do it. And of course, when it comes to human rights, privacy rights, as well as security, that can pose – that can pose a real challenge.
So what we talk about, including with our friends in Ecuador, is making sure that when it comes particularly to investments in sensitive areas, that they get the scrutiny that they deserve to make sure that the interests of the country on the receiving end and its people are fully preserved.