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Cablegate: Ecuador Split On Support of Free Trade Agreement

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.




E.O. 12958: N/A

1. Summary. A public opinion poll sponsored by USAID shows
that about half of the Ecuadorian public has heard about the
FTA and about half of the public (both informed and
uninformed) supports it. Not surprisingly, solid majorities
believe that the FTA will benefit the U.S. far more than
Ecuador. About half of those polled expressed no confidence
in Ecuador,s negotiating team and the vast majority felt
that the GOE is not adequately informing the public about the
process. Almost 85% feel the FTA should be put to a popular
vote. While the GOE flatly opposes a referendum on the FTA,
an uneducated population and mandatory voting could present
an obstacle to the FTA if a vote were to take place. End

2. As part of USAID,s campaign, a public opinion poll was
conducted on the FTA between the U.S. and the Andean
countries. The poll was conducted from November 16 through
December 4, 2004. The sample was 2,673 persons between the
ages of 18 and 65. The sample error is /- 1.9%. The
results were mixed and sometimes contradictory.

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Mixed Results

3. Half of those polled had heard of the FTA negotiations.
About half of those polled, both those who were aware of the
negotiations and those who were not, said an FTA with the
U.S. would be beneficial for Ecuador. Roughly one third
thought it would be detrimental for Ecuador.

4. The poll reflects the contradictory gut reactions of
Ecuadorians to both like and mistrust the U.S. Two-thirds of
the sample, without regard to socio-economic class or age,
saw the U.S. as a friend of Ecuador, but an interested
friend, a country whose friendship was conditioned by its own
interests. While majorities thought the FTA would bring more
employment (54%) to Ecuador, increase exports (58%) to the
U.S., and bring more U.S. investment (82%) to Ecuador, a
majority (58%) also felt that the U.S. would benefit more
from this agreement than Ecuador. Moreover, vast majorities
felt that the U.S. was looking to take advantage of
Ecuador,s natural resources (74%) and would impose
conditions on Ecuador that would favor the U.S. market (78%).
Far more respondents thought an FTA with Europe would be
beneficial to Ecuador (70%) than thought the same about an
FTA with the U.S. (50%). The perception of benefit from a
U.S. agreement was slightly greater among people aged 18 to
35 (51-53%), than among older respondents (46-47%).

5. More than half (54%) felt that big business would be the
greatest beneficiary from the FTA. Politicians came in
second at 18%. A likely result of a campaign by small
business leaders against the FTA was that small enterprise
was thought by 27% of the respondents to be the group that
would be affected most detrimentally by the FTA. Agriculture
came in second with 18% of respondents, behind both "other"
and "don,t know", possibly reflecting the fact that
agricultural interests will likely be among those most
benefited, as well as those most challenged, under the FTA.

6. Most people (85%) did not know who was negotiating the
FTA for Ecuador. Of those who did (15%), most only knew
Ivonne Baki, the flamboyant Minister of Trade. Despite not
knowing who was negotiating the agreement for Ecuador, half
gave a vote of no confidence to the team, 22% were confident,
and 28% were undecided. Of those who knew of the negotiating
team, about half still (52%) had no confidence in them,
although the number who did feel confident increased from 22
to 37%.

7. Almost half (46%) felt the GOE was not adequately
informing the public about the negotiations. Only 10% felt
adequately informed. By far, Ecuadorians received most of
their information about the FTA from television (72%) and
radio (9%). Only 6% gained their information from newspapers.

8. Not surprisingly, most people thought the FTA should be
subject to a popular vote (84%). Of those who thought there
should be a popular vote, 38% said they would vote in favor
of the FTA, 30% would vote against it, and 32% were
undecided. The large number of undecided voters is probably
a good thing, since it implies that prejudices are not
decisive, but this certainly points to a great deal of work
still to be done by the GOE in getting the word out.

More To Be Done

9. The USAID campaign has made tremendous headway in
educating the Ecuadorian public about the FTA. Through its
partnership with Comisin Negociadora, about 150 workshops
have taken place, its Website is up and receiving hits, and
several events have taken place with Congress. The current
phase of the campaign is expected to inform directly more
than 8,000 persons.

10. The next phase is currently being planned and will
involve more Congressional interaction and probably dialogues
with specific sectors addressing their concerns with impact

11. The fact that half of the population supports the FTA
makes us optimistic that, once an agreement is reached, it
will enjoy enough support to pass the Ecuadorian Congress.
The clear desire for a popular vote on the FTA reflects a
concerted effort by civil society groups including the main
indigenous organization to compel a referendum on the
subject. Their effort to collect nearly one million
signatures, however, has fallen flat (so far only 35,000).
Business groups claim they have collected three times as many
signatures in favor of an FTA (115,000). The GOE is
adamantly against a referendum on the FTA.


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