QUITO, Dec 6 (Reuters) - Ecuador plans to renegotiate the terms of its debt to China, President Lenin Moreno said on Thursday ahead of a trip to Beijing, adding that a deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for additional financing was possible.
China became the largest financier of the small OPEC nation in the past decade through loans, investment in infrastructure products and advances on crude oil purchases. But lower oil prices have complicated debt payments, and Moreno has sought to reduce the Ecuador’s fiscal deficit since taking office in 2017.
Ecuador’s debt to China totals $6.5 billion, according to the Economy Ministry.
While the Asian country’s financial largesse helped spur growth across Latin America as populist leaders like Ecuador’s former President Rafael Correa reaped the benefits of a commodities boom, recently elected right-leaning governments and U.S. officials have expressed concern that the region is becoming financially dependent on China.
“I will explain that we need an impetus for our development and that unfortunately the commitments that we made previously are not the best options for the country’s progress,” Moreno told local radio before his planned meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping next week.
Ecuador under Moreno has also sought financing from multilateral lenders, investment banks and other countries. When asked about a potential IMF agreement, Moreno said, “absolutely nothing is off the table.”
The Andean nation is also considering hedging against falls in the price of oil to make the budget process more predictable, Moreno said. (Reporting by Alexandra Valencia; Writing by Luc Cohen; Editing by Sandra Maler)