(Adds detail on US trade benefits for Ecuador)
By Doug Palmer and Patricia Zengerle
WASHINGTON, June 26 The head of the U.S. Senate
Foreign Relations Committee said on Wednesday he would seek to
end preferential treatment for Ecuadorean goods if the South
American nation offers political asylum to fugitive former spy
agency contractor Edward Snowden.
Senator Robert Menendez, chairman of the foreign relations
panel, warned in a statement that accepting Snowden "would
severely jeopardize" preferential trade access the United States
provides to Ecuador under two programs that are up for renewal
"Our government will not reward countries for bad behavior,"
Snowden was in hiding on Wednesday at an airport in Moscow
awaiting a ruling on his request for asylum from the South
American country's leftist government. The United States wants
him extradited to face charges that he stole and leaked details
of secret U.S. government surveillance programs.
Menendez also called on Russia to stop sheltering Snowden
and turn him over to the United States.
The New Jersey Democrat, an influential voice on trade
issues as leader of the foreign relations panel, said he would
lead the effort to prevent the renewal of Ecuador's duty-free
access to U.S. markets under the Generalized System of
Preferences program, which expires on July 31.
He also promised to block renewal of the Andean Trade
Promotion and Drug Eradication Act, which also expires at the
end of next month.
An OPEC nation, Ecuador exported $5.4 billion worth of oil,
$166 million of cut flowers, $122 million of fruits and
vegetables and $80 million of tuna to the United States under
the Andean trade program in 2012.
While Ecuador could find other markets for its oil,
termination of the benefits could hurt the cut flower industry,
which has blossomed under the program and employs more than
100,000 workers, many of them women.
Ecuador is the only recipient of trade benefits under the
long-time Andean program. Peru and Colombia have free trade
pacts with the United States and Bolivia was suspended several
Last year, five major U.S. business groups urged Ecuador be
suspended from the program because they said it failed to
provide adequate protections for investors.
Faced with the likelihood the Andean program would not be
renewed, Ecuador has been lobbying the Obama administration to
provide duty-free treatment for additional goods under the
Generalized System of Preferences program to lessen the blow.
(Editing by Sandra Maler, David Brunnstrom and Stacey Joyce)