Ecuador's Lasso to visit China in February for debt negotiations

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Ecuador's President-elect Guillermo Lasso speaks to media in Quito, Ecuador April 12, 2021. REUTERS/Luisa Gonzalez/File Photo

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QUITO, Jan 10 (Reuters) - Ecuador's President Guillermo Lasso will travel to China at the start of February to renegotiate terms of the South American country's debt to Beijing, Foreign Minister Juan Carlos Holguin said on Monday.

In a bid to lower the strain of the outstanding credit for the next three years, conservative former banker Lasso plans to visit China on Feb. 3. He will also seek to sign a memorandum of understanding to begin negotiations regarding a bilateral trade deal, as well as touching on other themes such as environmental sustainability.

"The issue is dealing with our current debt-payment mechanisms in a transparent and direct manner," Holguin told to journalists. "They're innovative proposals that have broad interest in the international community and we believe that China will be able to accept some of these mechanisms."

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Ecuador owes China more than $5 billion, the majority of which is slated to be paid in the next three years, which is why Lasso will present new proposals for debt payments to his counterpart Xi Jinping, Holguin said, adding that initial meetings had so far been positive.

In the last decade China has become Ecuador's primary financial partner, with crude for credit agreements, open credit arrangements and multi-million dollar investments in the mining industry and dams.

Since taking power last May, Lasso has turned to multilateral organizations to secure the finance needed to boost Ecuador's economy, which was battered by the pandemic. In 2021, he renegotiated a loan agreement for $6.5 billion with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and has not ruled out returning to capital markets this year.

At the same time Ecuador's relationship with the United States has seen progress, Holguin said, adding they will focus on security and human rights, as well as negotiations for a trade agreement with Washington.

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Reporting by Alexandra Valencia Writing by Oliver Griffin; Editing by Aurora Ellis

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