“Major U.S. business groups are stepping up pressure on President Barack Obama's administration to suspend longtime trade benefits for Ecuador, citing the Andean country's mistreatment of Chevron Corp as proof of a deteriorating investment climate”, Reuters said September 26.
The alleged mistreatment is "Ecuador's pursing of justice for victims of pollution caused by the activities of oil corporation Texaco (now part of Chevron) in the country. In February last year, an Ecuadorian court ordered Chevron to pay damages for the pollution. Reuters said a court ruling in August raised the total amount to be paid to US$19 billion
The case was filed on behalf of about 30,000 peasants, farmers, and indigenous Ecuadorians who have suffered from the pollution. Nearly 20 billion gallons of polluted water, oil and toxic waste was released into the ecosystem between 1972 and 1990 by Texaco in eastern Ecuador.
The pollution has caused thousands of deaths, cancers, birth defects, large-scale environmental damage and huge economic loss.
In response to the latest court ruling, Edward Scott, Chevron vice president and general counsel, said: "The president should promptly withdraw or suspend Ecuador's beneficiary country designation.”
Reuters said Ecuador receives US duty-free treatment for most of its exports to the United States under the Andean Trade Preference Act.
The US Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, the National Foreign Trade Council, the US Council for International Business and the Emergency Committee for American Trade each filed separate comments asking that such trade arrangements with Ecuador be suspended.