- The Washington Times - Monday, September 22, 2003

Ecuador’s free trade

Ecuador could grow impatient waiting for the rest of Latin America to reach a trade deal with the United States and negotiate a trade pact on its own, Ecuador’s new ambassador said yesterday.

“We are for the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas,” Ambassador Raul Gangotena told reporters at a luncheon. “If the continent doesn’t agree, we are not going to abandon it. We are ready to go bilateral.”

He said increased trade with the United States would create jobs in Ecuador and allow more Ecuadorians to find work at home instead of emigrating.

“We will be very happy to increase trade with the United States,” he said. “Instead of exporting people, we’d like to have them back and export goods.”

Mr. Gangotena said Ecuador is developing a democratic society after years of political turmoil. He also noted that his country is encouraging “ethnic, social and geopolitical integration” among its various racial groups. Fifty-five percent of its population of about 13 million are of mixed race. Twenty-five percent are native Indians, while ethnic Spanish and blacks make up 10 percent each.

“We are achieving this without clashes or violence,” he said. “We are in the process of establishing a high degree of democracy. … It’s not just a matter of going to vote. It’s a matter of participation.”

Ambassador Khalilzad

Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. special envoy to Afghanistan, is President Bush’s choice to serve as ambassador to the South Asian nation.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan yesterday said Mr. Bush “appreciates Zal taking on this new role at such an important time.”

If he is approved by the Senate, Mr. Khalilzad would replace Ambassador Robert Finn. Afghan-born Mr. Khalilzad served in the State Department from 1985 to 1989, helping shape U.S. policy during the Iran-Iraq war and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

In 1991 and 1992, he served as an assistant deputy undersecretary of defense for policy planning under Paul Wolfowitz, now deputy secretary of defense.

Indian rivalry

India’s ambassador to the United States and a diplomat accredited to India’s U.N. mission are locked in a rivalry this week, with the Indian prime minister visiting New York for the U.N. General Assembly, according to reports in the Indian press.

As Ambassador Lalit Mansingh was organizing a reception for Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, he was unaware that Bhishma Agnihotri, India’s ambassador at large for Indian immigrants in the United States, was throwing a party for the prime minister Sunday evening, the Indian Express reported yesterday.

An Indian Embassy source dismissed the news reports as a “figment of the reporter’s imagination.” The source said the events were planned for different guests and there is no rivalry between the two diplomats.

“They get along very well,” the source said.

The Indian Express said Mr. Mansingh was “completely disconnected” from the reception for Indian immigrants at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York, the newspaper said.

“The jockeying for power between Mr. Agnihotri and Mr. Mansingh has become an irritant for the U.S. government and an embarrassing burden for New Delhi,” the Indian Express reported yesterday from New York.

Mr. Agnihotri was accredited with India’s U.N. mission after the United States refused to recognize his position as ambassador at large. The State Department was concerned about the appearance of two Indian diplomats claiming ambassadorial status.

Mr. Agnihotri, a U.S. resident with permanent immigration status, apparently has few friends in the Indian Foreign Ministry.

“That the Indian Foreign Ministry is unhappy with him is an open secret,” the Hindu newspaper reported last week.

The Indian prime minister is due to meet with President Bush on Thursday in New York.

• Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@washingtontimes.com.

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