Americas, Business & trade, New in Lobbying

Ecuador nabs top US diplomat Tom Shannon for $900,000 trade push

Ecuador has hired a veteran US diplomat with extensive experience in Latin America as it seeks to build on trade talks begun under the Donald Trump administration.

The Ministry of Production, Foreign Trade, Investments and Fisheries has hired white-shoe international law firm Arnold & Porter for $900,000, according to a new lobbying filing with the US Department of Justice. The contract was effective Nov. 10 and runs through May 2021.

Signing for the firm were former Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Tom Shannon and Raul Herrera, a former general counsel to the Inter-American Investment Corporation. Senior Minister Ivan Ontaneda signed for Ecuador.

“The registrant will assist the foreign principal with advocacy and outreach efforts,” the contract states, “including meetings with U.S. Government officials, in connection with promoting interests in furthering bilateral trade and investment.”

The fees are also expected to cover strategic communications work to be performed by the Glover Park Group.

The lobbying push follows President Lenin Moreno‘s February meeting with President Trump, the first White House visit by an Ecuadorean leader in nearly two decades amid an improvement in ties following the departure of leftist leader Rafael Correa in 2017. Foreign Minister Jose Valencia at the time touted the meeting as “the culmination of a rebirth and reinforcement of the relationship of our country with an important economic and commercial partner.”

During the visit, Moreno and his delegation made the case for a bilateral free trade agreement such as the ones the United States has with Ecuadorian competitors including Mexico, Colombia and Peru. They also asked the US to lift tariffs on four key agricultural exports: broccoli, artichokes, tuna and roses.

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Shannon, a 35-year veteran of the State Department who was the third most-senior US diplomat when he stepped down in 2018, played a key role in helping repair the relationship. He notably met with Moreno in Quito in February 2018 for bilateral talks that touched on trade and other issues; later that year, the US and Ecuador restarted meetings of the United States-Ecuador Trade and Investment Council (TIC) that had been dormant since 2009 as Correa clashed with Washington.

Following the White House meeting, the US and Ecuador agreed to hold a third meeting of the TIC in April but it was postponed until earlier this month because of the COVID-19 outbreak. Deputy US Trade Representative Michael Nemelka led the US delegation, while Ontaneda led Ecuador’s.

The two men discussed “a range of trade and investment-related issues, including intellectual property, environment, labor, and trade in agriculture products,” according to a joint statement put out by the Office of the US Trade Representative.

“They also discussed the implementation of an ambitious economic and trade agenda between Ecuador and the United States,” the statement says. “Both countries reconfirmed their commitment to accelerating work under the US-Ecuador TIC, including completion of negotiation of a Protocol on Trade Rules and Transparency, based on the high-standard provisions in recent US and Ecuador trade agreements. The United States and Ecuador anticipate concluding these negotiations, which will include provisions on trade facilitation, good regulatory practices, anti-corruption, and cooperation on small and medium-sized enterprises, before the end of the year.”

The statement ends by stating that “both countries look forward to further deepening our engagement in 2021 and to convening the fourth meeting of the Trade and Investment Council” in Quito.

Shannon’s extensive experience with Latin America includes stints as Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs under President George W. Bush and as ambassador to Brazil under President Barack Obama. In his subsequent role as counselor to the State Department, he notably delivered a message to the government of President Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela.

Shannon and Herrera are also working together on Arnold & Porter’s May 2020 contract with Argentina’s Ministry of International Trade and Foreign Investment.