There is a hum of muffled conversation and the smell of wood smoke fills the room and clings to their worn ponchos as they await the arrival of the country's Trade Minister, Yvonne Baki
come to explain the advantages of a new proposed free trade deal between the Andean nations and the United States.A member of Ecuador's euro-élite, Minister Baki has been the country's ambassador to the US for years and is a big supporter of trade talks with Washington.
finally saunters into the hall the contrast with her
Indian audience couldn't be starker.She
wears a silk blouse and tailored dress pants; her
hair is coloured gold.The compact Indian women scattered around the room are garbed in traditional embroidered dress and sport felt hats.Ms Baki's
most recent accomplishments include organizing the Miss Universe pageant in Quito last year.Now she's
known as Miss FTA for her
free trade boosterism.Minister Baki tells her listeners that globalization cannot be stopped.
You either ‘get on the train,' she
says, ‘or you get left behind.' The Andean Free Trade Agreement can benefit both big business and small farmers in Ecuador, she
stresses.But the small-scale farmer must get into the negotiation process because ‘it's the rural sector that's most vulnerable'.
‘Who will we trade with if not the US?' she
asks. ‘Brazil, Chile, Peru?We have a trade deficit with each of those.The US is the largest market in the region and must import food to feed its population.We must get in there and get the best agreements possible.' If not, she
adds, other countries will cut better deals and Ecuador will be left behind.She
hardly finishes her
present-ation before she
is bombarded with questions from the floor.