Focus: South American Cooperation

Leading the Way

Leading the Way

Sep. 25, 2012

Ecuador may be small in land area, but its dream to collaborate with the greater region of South America to achieve economic and social goals is big.

Ecuador held the presidency of UNASUR from 2009-2010, demonstrating its leadership and commitment to the values of regional integration and collaboration. In recognition of the country's efforts, Quito was named as the location of the headquarters shortly after President Correa proposed the idea among its members, an action that was received with unanimous consent. “Ecuador set a very positive example in terms leadership at all levels of the organization, especially when the region was affected by problems in locations such as Venezuela, Colombia, and Haiti," Mejía said in an interview with TBY, adding “Ecuador focused its efforts on making our dream possible."

UNASUR, established in 2008, is a socially engaged organization, committed to defense, economy, finance, infrastructure, energy, and health. Ecuador is home to the headquarters of the organization, where it was officially legalized as an entity by the foreign ministers of the 12 member states in March 2011. The permanent Secretariat of UNASUR will remain in Ecuador year-round, while presidents will meet on an annual basis throughout the region. One of the organization's main goals is to create a single-market system and eliminate the tariffs of non-sensitive products by 2014 and sensitive products by 2019. Modeled on the EU, UNASUR also seeks to allow citizens of its member states the many benefits of integration, such as permission to work in and freedom to move between the other 11 countries.

CAN has been in place since 1996, preceded by a similar organization called the Andean Pact, which was established in 1969. Ecuador's membership has been characterized by its proactive programs to decrease poverty and sound macroeconomic policies. “Ecuador's programs against poverty have allowed the country to rank in the top five among nations in the region that have significantly reduced poverty between 2002 and 2010," Adalid Contreras Baspineiro, Secretary-General of the CAN, told TBY. “Moreover, in the years leading up to the global economic crisis, Ecuador was a role model for the region with solid and responsible macroeconomic management, which has been translated into targeted investments that close the social gap and build infrastructure."

The two organizations also function as complements to MERCOSUR, a third regional organization in South America geared toward economic integration. Ecuador currently has associate member status, but interacts with the group through both UNASUR and CAN.

In terms of Ecuador's physical contributions to South American cooperation, Ecuador is working to connect to Colombia and Peru via both transport and electricity links. Currently, temporary legislation is in place that allows for the exchange of electricity between the three countries, provided the transfer is taking place under the CAN's general framework for the sub-regional interconnection of electrical systems, which includes every Andean nation.

On the eastern border of the country, Brazil stands as Ecuador's neighbor in enjoying and conserving the biodiversity of the Amazon, as well as rivers that could potentially connect the larger nation to trade routes toward Asia. In realizing this possibility, Ecuador has begun preliminary studies to determine the best option. “Manta is now well connected with the rest of the country, and it's important also to connect it with Brazil as this will help trade flourish between the two countries," Rubén Morán, President of the Directory of Guayaquil Port Authority (GPA), told TBY. Manta, as one of Ecuador's prime Pacific ports, could play an even greater role in South American cooperation as it develops.