Brazil President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was awarded the Cordon of the Ecuadorean National Order of Merit in a ceremony August 24 at the Carondelet Palace in Quito, Ecuador.
In his speech, the President of Ecuador, Lucio Gutiérrez, praised Brazilian policy and declared that “the Amazon Treaty Organization is now entering a new phase and is distinguishing itself as a forum to solidify bonds of cooperation between our nations.”
President Lula expressed his gratitude, affirming: “Together, we shall struggle for a South America that is increasingly more united, more democratic, and more solidary.”
At present, the principal Brazilian products imported by Ecuador are automobiles, autoparts, medicines, paper, and various kinds of machinery. Brazil’s chief imports from Ecuador include medicines, chocolates, fish, fruit juices, straw hats, and nylon.
Nevertheless, Ecuador’s trade balance with Brazil is extremely unfavorable. Between January and May of this year, Brazil was the fifth largest supplier of goods to that country. In 2003, while Brazil earned US$ 366.4 million from its sales to Ecuador, Ecuador exported only US$ 19.4 million to Brazil.
During Lula’s visit today in Ecuador, various partnerships were signed. Among them, financial agreements worth US$ 243 million with the Brazilian National Economic and Social Development Bank (BNDES) to extend electricity, water, and economic development to a poor region of Ecuador. The project, the construction of the San Francisco Hydroelectric Plant, will cost a total of US$ 325 million.
“The hydroelectric plant should be finished in less than four years. It represents 230 megawatts, which means a considerable increase in the energy supply,” said the Minister of Mines and Energy, Dilma Rousseff, who is accompanying President Lula on his visit to Ecuador.
According to Rousseff, Brazilian firms are involved in the construction of the hydroelectric project.
The Ecuadorean government also wants to obtain loans from the BNDES for the construction of airports in the capital, Quito, and the city of Tena, as well as another hydroelectric plant. The three projects together would call for credits on the order of US$ 409 million.
Brazil and Ecuador also signed a cooperation agreement to share technical knowledge in the area of breast-feeding. According to President Lula, the agreement will be part of a “future Latin American network of human milk banks.” The program proposes “to increase the demand for biologically secure human milk for all premature infants.”
Lula also underscored the agreement in the energy sector between state enterprises from the two countries, Petrobrás and Petroecuador, to produce petroleum, natural gas, and ethanol. Still another agreement was signed by Brazil in the telecommunications sector, for the modernization of public telephone companies in Ecuador.
Lula mentioned, as well, an interest in adhering to the example of agreements signed with Peru and Chile, to exempt Ecuadorean citizens from the need to present passports.
He also emphasized the projects of “interconnection between the Amazon and Andean regions,” such as the Manta-Manaus project, which “will transform Ecuador into a central transportation route between Asia and Europe, with South America as a focal point,” Lula said.
Reporter: André Deak
Translator: David Silberstein