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US working on trade deal with Ecuador, President Trump says

WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 12: U.S. President Donald Trump shakes hands with President of the Republic of Ecuador Lenín Moreno, during a meeting in the Oval Office at the White House, on February 12, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump said Wednesday that he’s working on a trade deal with Ecuador’s President Lenin Moreno, who became the first chief of state from the small South American nation in 17 years to meet with an American president in Washington.

“They have incredible product,” President Trump said about Ecuador’s exports. “They grow it and they make it and we like it — and they need our product.”

“We are working on great deals. We’re working on military options including the purchase of a lot of our military equipment,” President Trump said.

Relations between the U.S. and Ecuador deteriorated during the 10 years of leftist Rafael Correa’s presidency, but have been rekindled under Moreno.

“Ecuador has, after having gone through very hard times, and especially in regards to its international relationships, has decided to come together again with the international community and refresh relationships,” Moreno said in the Oval Office. “We need to remember that the U.S. is the main trading partner for Ecuador.”

President Trump’s trade negotiator, Robert Lighthizer, was expected to participate in the meeting.

Moreno has welcomed U.S. cooperation on security, economic and cultural issues and has joined the U.S. and nearly 60 other nations in backing the Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó, who is working to oust Venezuela’s president, Nicolas Maduro.

Ecuador has received $72 million from the United States to assist with the influx of people leaving Venezuela. There currently are nearly 400,000 Venezuelans in Ecuador.

Moreno said he also wanted to talk to President Trump about drug trafficking and the fight against corruption and organized crime.

Moreno is at a weak moment of his presidency after nearly two weeks of violent protests last year over his decision to end fuel subsidies. He later retracted that decision and reached an agreement with indigenous leaders to cancel an austerity package backed by the International Monetary Fund. But the economy is still growing at a sluggish pace and Moreno’s approval rating has hovered around 20%.

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