QUITO, March 24 (Xinhua) -- Negotiators from Ecuador and the European Union (EU) on Monday opened the second round of talks toward a so-called Trade Agreement for Development, said the Ecuadorian Foreign Trade Ministry.
The trade talks were held behind the closed door between the Ecuadorian delegation led by Foreign Trade Minister Francisco Rivadeneira and that of the European Union in Ecuador's main fishing port of Manta, in northwest Manabi state, the ministry said in a statement.
The talks, which are expected to wrap up Thursday, will center around the thorny issues of public purchases and intellectual property rights, according to a source from the Ecuadorian delegation.
The two sides held the first round of the talks in January in Brussels, Belgium after a five-year suspension due to differences over the above-mentioned thorny issues.
"Ecuador continues to be the largest exporter of fruit (bananas) to the European market, despite the fact that there are competitor countries which have better access conditions to that market," the ministry said.
The EU is the second-largest market for Ecuador's non-oil exports, making a trade deal with the bloc highly important for the South American nation.
According to Ecuador's National Federation of Exporters ( Fedexport), a trade deal could boost exports by some 300 million U. S. dollars over the next three years, and the Fedexport hopes to see a final deal in place by December, when an EU preferential tariff scheme for Ecuadorian products is set to expire.
The scheme, called SGP Plus, allows Ecuador's exports, mainly agricultural and fishing products, to enter the bloc's 28 member nations free of tariffs.
Ecuador's total exports to the EU increased 24 percent to hit 3. 051 billion dollars last year while the EU exports to Ecuador rose 0.3 percent to reach 2.78 billion dollars, leaving Ecuador with a trade surplus of 271 million dollars, according to the ministry's figures.