The government of Ecuador under President Guillermo Lasso has adopted an ambitious economic reform agenda to drive investment. Private sector leaders in Ecuador emphasize the “Lasso Effect” in investment given the surge of optimism following the April 2021 election of the region’s most pro-business president in decades. “More Ecuador in the world and more of the world in Ecuador” – President Lasso’s key message for his presidency – includes the administration’s drive to attract $30 billion in investment over his four-year administration. Indeed, investment is growing – with both international and domestic companies searching for opportunities in this traditionally protectionist market that once garnered little attention compared to neighbors Colombia and Peru. Public-private partnerships (PPPs) are the cornerstone of the administration’s investment drive, including the establishment of a PPP Secretariat and the consolidation of PPP-related tax rules and regulations.
The Ecuadorian government is taking positive steps to improving fiscal stability. In September 2020, the International Monetary Fund approved a $6.5 billion, 27-month Extended Fund Facility for Ecuador and has already disbursed $4.8 billion to aid in economic stabilization and reform. The IMF program is in line with the government’s efforts to correct fiscal imbalances and to improve transparency and efficiency in public finance. The Ecuadorian Central Bank reported solid GDP growth of 4.2 percent in 2021 and projects 2.8 percent GDP growth in 2022. The Ecuadorian government remains committed to the sustainability of public finances and to continue a fiscal consolidation path. The fiscal deficit narrowed to 3.5 percent of GDP in 2021 (from over 7 percent of GDP in 2020) and is expected to narrow further to a little over 2 percent of GDP in 2022 due to improved tax collection, prudent public spending, and high oil prices.
Still, the Lasso administration faces major challenges to its investment agenda given the country’s long-term reputation as a high-risk country for investment. A challenging relationship with the National Assembly complicates the passage of needed economic reform legislation. While the administration’s November 2021 tax reform passed into law, the National Assembly soundly defeated President Lasso’s proposed investment promotion bill March 24. Serious budget deficits and the COVID-induced economic recession force the government to employ cost cutting measures and limit public investment. Ecuador has traditionally struggled to structure tenders and PPPs that are bankable, transparent, and competitive. This has discouraged private investment and attracted companies that lack a commitment to quality construction, accountability and transparency, environmental sustainability, and social inclusion. Corruption remains widespread, and Ecuador is ranked in the bottom half of countries surveyed for Transparency International’s Perceptions of Corruption Index. In addition, economic, commercial, and investment policies are subject to frequent changes and can increase the risks and costs of doing business in Ecuador.
Ecuador is a dollarized economy that has few limits on foreign investment or repatriation of profits, with the exception of a currency exit tax. It has a population that generally views the United States positively, and the Lasso Administration has expanded bilateral ties and significantly increased cooperation with the United States on a broad range of economic, security, political, and cultural issues.
Sectors of Interest to Foreign Investors
Petroleum and Gas: Per the 2008 Constitution, all subsurface resources belong to the state, and the petroleum sector is dominated by one state-owned enterprise (SOE) that cannot be privatized. Presidential Decree 95 published July 2021 opened private sector participation in oil exploration and production, with a goal to double oil production to 1 million barrels per day by 2028. The government can offer concessions of its refineries, sell off SOE gasoline stations, issue production-sharing contracts for oil exploration and exploitation, and prepare the SOE to be listed publicly on the stock market. The government maintained its consumer fuel subsidies since May 2020. The Ecuadorian government plans three oil field tenders in 2022 including concessions for Intracampos II and III and Block 60–Sacha. Given its declining and underdeveloped gas fields, the government plans to launch a tender for its Amistad offshore gas field. Additionally, the government announced potential tenders for a South-East concession, a private operator for the Esmeraldas refinery, and another to build and operate a new Euro 5 quality refinery.
Mining: The Ecuadorian government plans to accelerate mining development to increase revenues and diversify its economy. Presidential Decree 151, published August 2021, seeks to promote private sector participation in mining exploration and production. The decree allows for private sector investment, joint ventures with the state-owned mining enterprise (SOE); seeks to combat illegal mining; and establishes an Advisory Board to guide the government on best practices for responsible mining. The government announced plans to relaunch its mining cadastre in 2022, which was closed in 2018 due to irregularities in granting concessions. Ecuador has two operating mines — a gold mine operated by a Canadian company and a copper mine operated by a PRC-affiliated company. In 2021 the government issued two new mining concessions and announced plans to issue concessions for 12 additional strategic mining projects.
Electricity: Hydroelectric electricity accounts for 80 percent of Ecuador’s electricity generation. The PRC-built 1500 MW Coca Codo Sinclair (CCS) hydro power plant designed to provide 30 percent of Ecuador’s electricity has never generated its total installed power capacity and has been undergoing repairs since it began operating in 2016. CCS is also at risk from regressive erosion from the adjacent Coca River. The government contracted U.S. Army Corp of Engineers engineering services December 2021 to develop a solution to mitigate the river erosion. The government plans to develop wind, solar, hydro, biomass, biogas, geothermal, biofuel, combined cycle, and gas-fired electrical generation plants to diversify the energy matrix. It awarded a 200 MW solar tender and a 110 MW wind tender to private operators in 2020. It launched tenders for a 500 MW renewable energy block, a 400 MW combined cycle power plant, and a Northeast Interconnection transmission line in December 2021. The government imported its first LNG cargo December 2021 followed by a second shipment in February 2022.
Telecommunications: The Lasso administration is prioritizing rural connectivity as its major telecommunications policy. In mid-2021, the Ministry of Telecommunications (MINTEL) received from the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) the valuation report for the 2.5 GHz (gigahertz) and 700 MHz (megahertz) bands. The cost set is reserved. Likewise, MINTEL asked the ITU for the valuation of the 3.5 GHz, 850, 900 AWS and 1900 bands, which in turn will allow new players in the market and the future deployment of the fifth generation of technologies (5G). Three 5G technology connectivity tests have taken place in Ecuador, though there is no target date for the beginning of 5G commercial operations. Ecuador is due to renegotiate the concession contracts with the mobile network operators, which expire in 2023. New terms and conditions of the concession rights and use of frequencies are currently in the works including technical, legal, and regulatory requirements. The current negotiations do not include the frequency bands for the 5G network and are instead focused on the frequencies currently assigned to operators.
E–Commerce: In 2020, E-Commerce sales reached $2.3 billion record sales, an overnight digital transformation due to the pandemic. In 2021, according to Ecuador´s Electronic Commerce Chamber, E-Commerce sales grew 20 to 40 percent ($460 to $920 million, approximately). While many Ecuadorians are interested in purchasing online, they are limited in their ability to receive international shipments due to logistics and customs problems upon arrival in Ecuador. The Ministry of Production launched the National E-Commerce Strategy in 2021, establishing a framework for facilitating the digital transformation in the country. The strategy focuses on strengthening the current legal framework, capacity building for small and medium enterprises (SMEs), and improving logistics and payment gateway capabilities. Since the issuance of the National E-Commerce Strategy, no new regulations have entered into force to facilitate its application and the objectives set forth therein. The government is also promoting the development of the Andean Digital Agenda together with the other Andean Community countries, whose update will be promulgated in the first half of this year.
1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment
3. Legal Regime
4. Industrial Policies
5. Protection of Property Rights
6. Financial Sector
7. State-Owned Enterprises
Ecuador has a total of 17 SOEs. The major SOEs include those for petroleum (Petroecuador), electricity (Electricity Corporation of Ecuador – CELEC – and the National Corporation for Electricity – CNEL), and telecommunications (National Corporation of Telecommunications – CNT). The 17 SOEs combined have approximately 30,000 employees. As part of the government’s austerity measures to deal with the COVID-19-related economic crisis, the Lasso administration continued with the SOE liquidation processes started in May 2020. As of September 2021, there were three liquidated SOEs (Manufacture Ecuador, Pharmaceutical Public Company, Public Cement Company) and eight in the process of liquidation, including the state-owned airline (TAME), railroad company (Ecuadorian Railways Company), a social development firm using profits from natural resource revenues (Strategic Ecuador), training centers for athletes (High Performance Training Centers), an agricultural storage company (National Storage Units), the public media company, and a science and technology research firm (Siembra EP, formerly Yachay City of Knowledge). In February 2021, the government announced that Ecuador Post Office will be replaced by Ecuador Postal Services (SPE). Ecuador’s Coordinator of Public Companies maintains a list of SOEs at: .
The 2009 Organic Law of Public Enterprises regulates SOEs. SOEs are most active in areas designated by the 2008 Constitution as strategic sectors. SOEs follow a special procurement regime with greater flexibility and limited oversight. The Law of Public Enterprises requires SOEs to follow generally accepted accounting principles. Still, SOEs are not required to follow the same accounting practices as the central government, nor do they have to participate in the electronic financial management system used in most of the public sector for budget and accounting management. SOEs are eligible for government guarantees and face lower tax burdens than private companies. SOEs generally do not have professionally audited financial statements. The Ministry of Economy and Finance approves SOEs’ annual budgets and often slows distribution of funds to SOEs to compensate for other government expenditures.
Ecuador is not party to the Government Procurement Agreement (GPA) within the framework of the World Trade Organization.
8. Responsible Business Conduct
Article 66 of the 2008 Constitution guarantees the right to pursue economic activities in a manner that is socially and environmentally responsible. Civil society groups such as the Institute of Corporate Social Responsibility and the Ecuadorian Consortium for Social Responsibility promote responsible business conduct. Many Ecuadorian companies have programs to further responsible business conduct within their organizations. Ecuador joined the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) in October 2020. The country still needs to comply with additional requirements to become a full member. Currently, Ecuador is preparing its Work Plan and is expected to deliver the first country report in April 2022. EITI validation will commence within two and a half years of becoming a candidate (by 5 April 2023).
A number of local and indigenous communities are active in opposing extractive industry projects in their territories, though some communities have welcomed responsible mining companies that are generating employment and bringing benefits to the local people. Ecuador’s Constitutional Court affirmed communities have the right to vote on whether to allow large-scale mining projects near their water sources in a September 2020 ruling on a plebiscite proposed by the Cuenca municipality. The Ecuadorian government is also legally obligated to carry out previous consultation (consulta previa) with indigenous groups and other communities per the Ecuadorian Constitution and its commitments under International Labor Organization Convention 169 and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Ecuador’s Organic Law for Citizen Participation also mandates free, prior, and informed consultations (FPIC) on matters that may impact the environment, culture, and social wellbeing of local people. Ecuador’s 2018 Organic Law for the Integral Planning of the Amazon Region provides for the distribution of extractive industry income for the benefit of local communities affected by the sector’s operations. Still, few financial benefits have trickled down to local communities historically and instead royalties often serve to cover expenses from national and subnational government agencies.
Ecuador has no established protocols for the consultations with indigenous groups and other local communities, leading to political tensions and protests particularly in areas with oil drilling and mining projects. Local and indigenous opposition to mining projects has stalled numerous mining concessions in recent years, including the San Carlos-Panantza Copper Mine and the Rio Blanco Gold Mine. A triumvirate of indigenous groups, including the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE), filed a lawsuit October 2021 with the Constitutional Court. They demand the Court nullify President Lasso’s Executive Decree 95 related to the oil sector on the basis that the decree violates the FPIC requirement in the Constitution. Although the Constitutional Court has not ruled on the Executive Decree’s constitutionality, in February 2022 the Court called for stronger protections to guarantee indigenous communities’ rights to decide on extractive projects in their territories. Indigenous people and their organizations are seeking more equitable and transparent processes that empower indigenous nations to attract select extractives in their territories and negotiate fair royalties.
Ecuadorian law prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor, including all forms of labor exploitation and child labor. Article 42 of the labor code establishes that all companies engaged in global or domestic supply chains are required by law to pay minimum wage, ensure eight-hour workdays, and pay into social security. The Ministry of Labor’s Directorate for Control and Inspections is responsible for enforcement of labor laws. Ecuador currently has four products included on the Department of Labor’s Bureau of International Labor Affairs list of goods that it has reason to believe are produced by child labor or forced labor in violation of international standards, as required under the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA) of 2005. These products include bananas, bricks, flowers, and gold. Ministry of Labor (MoL) officials received reports of child labor and conducted inspections but did not furnish specific or aggregated data on the number of inspections or child labor incidences in the production of bananas, bricks, gold, or flowers in 2020 or 2021.
Ecuador’s flower production consortium, in coordination with the International Labor Organization and the MoL, undertook a series of efforts to eliminate child labor from flower farms in 2020. The MoL reported that labor inspections of large flower farms in 2020 in Pichincha province did not find instances of child labor. This positive outcome is largely because these farms are part of the Business Network for a Child-Labor-Free Ecuador and are committed to the elimination of child labor. Despite their progress, flower exporting consortiums continue to resist a diagnostic survey to demonstrate the elimination of child labor.
According to international organizations, adolescents below age 15 engage in dangerous working conditions in the artisanal gold mining near the borders with Colombia and Peru. Most gold mining is in southern Ecuador near Peru. Adolescents engaged in hazardous unregulated mining operations faced exposure to mercury and other hazardous chemicals. Government officials admitted difficulty in monitoring for child labor in the unregulated artisanal gold mining sector, particularly in relatively inaccessible border areas. Government and civil society sources did not report child labor in mining for export-oriented firms.
Nationally the government does not mandate local employment. However, the Organic Law of the Amazon, approved by the National Assembly on May 21, 2018, mandates that any company, national or foreign, operating within the area covered by the law (the Amazon Basin) must hire at least 70 percent of their staff locally, unless they cannot find qualified labor from that area. The 2015 Organic Law for the Special Regime of the Galapagos (LOREG) and its regulations enacted in April 2017 include the mandatory hiring of local residents. The law stipulates non-residents can be hired only if companies demonstrate there are no local candidates with the required skill set.
Department of State
- Country Reports on Human Rights Practices;
- Trafficking in Persons Report;
- Guidance on Implementing the “UN Guiding Principles” for Transactions Linked to Foreign Government End-Users for Products or Services with Surveillance Capabilities;
- U.S. National Contact Point for the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises; and;
- Xinjiang Supply Chain Business Advisory
Department of the Treasury
Department of Labor
Corruption is a serious problem in Ecuador, and one that the Lasso administration is confronting. Ecuadorian courts have recently tried numerous cases of corruption, resulting in convictions of high-level officials, including former President Rafael Correa, former Vice President Jorge Glas (although the judiciary recently released him), and former Vice President Maria Alejandra Vicuña, among others. U.S. companies have cited corruption as an obstacle to investment, with concerns related specifically to non-transparent public tenders, dispute resolution, and payment of arbitration awards.
Ecuadorian law provides criminal penalties for corruption by public officials, but the government has not implemented the law effectively, and officials have engaged in corrupt practices. Ecuador ranked 105 out of 180 countries surveyed for Transparency International’s 2021 Perceptions of Corruption Index and received a score of 36 out of 100. High-profile cases of alleged official corruption involving state-owned petroleum company PetroEcuador and Brazilian construction firm Odebrecht illustrate the significant challenges that confront Ecuador with regards to corruption. The Ecuadorian National Assembly approved anti-corruption legislation in December 2020. The legislation, which reforms the Comprehensive Organic Penal Code, creates new criminal acts including circumvention of public procurement procedures, acts of corruption in the private sector, and obstruction of justice. It also includes 11 provisions reforming the laws governing the public procurement system and the Comptroller General’s Office.
Illicit payments for official favors and theft of public funds reportedly take place frequently. Dispute settlement procedures are complicated by the lack of transparency and inefficiency in the judicial system. Offering or accepting a bribe is illegal and punishable by imprisonment for up to five years. The Comptroller General is responsible for the oversight of public funds, and there are frequent investigations and occasional prosecutions for irregularities.
Ecuador ratified the UN Anticorruption Convention in September 2005. Ecuador is not a signatory to the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery. The 2008 Constitution created the Citizen Participation and Social Control Council (CPCCS), tasked with preventing and combating corruption, among other responsibilities. The 2018 national referendum converted the CPCCS from an appointed to a popularly elected body. In December 2008, President Correa issued a decree that created the National Secretariat for Transparency (SNTG) to investigate and denounce acts of corruption in the public sector. The SNTG became an undersecretariat and was merged with the National Secretariat of Public Administration June 2013. President Moreno established the Anticorruption Secretariat within the Presidency in February 2019 but disbanded it in May 2020 for allegedly intervening in corruption investigations conducted by the Office of the Attorney General. The CPCCS can receive complaints and conduct investigations into alleged acts of corruption. Responsibility for prosecution remains with the Office of the Attorney General.
10. Political and Security Environment
Widespread public protests in 1997, 2000, and 2005 contributed to the removal of three elected presidents before the end of their terms. Large-scale but peaceful demonstrations against the Correa government occurred in June 2015. Some indigenous communities opposed to natural resource development have blocked access by petroleum and mining companies. Opposition to the government’s decision to remove fuel subsidies led to nationwide violent protests in October 2019. The protests paralyzed the country for 11 days, causing significant property damage, including to petroleum and telecommunications infrastructure. A dialogue between the government and indigenous protest leaders, mediated by the United Nations and the Catholic Church, led to the government’s decision to restore the fuel subsidies. Security along the northern border with Colombia deteriorated significantly in late 2017 and early 2018, when dissident Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia groups attacked police and military units and kidnapped civilians, resulting in several deaths. Military and police increased their presence in the zone, and violence in the northern border area calmed in 2019, although illicit activities continue. Violence related to drug-trafficking organizations increased in 2020, 2021, and continue into 2022, particularly in Ecuador’s port cities. In 2021, the Lasso administration declared an emergency in the prison system after a series of riots in various prisons that left more than 300 prisoners dead. The Executive has submitted to the National Assembly updated regulations aimed at ensuring public safety and control of prison systems. The National Assembly continues to debate and analyze security sector reforms.
Ecuador’s Constitutional Court affirmed communities have the right to vote on whether to allow large-scale mining projects near their water sources, in a September 21 ruling on a plebiscite proposed by the municipality of Cuenca
11. Labor Policies and Practices
As of December 2021, Ecuador’s Statistics Institute (INEC) shows a 66 percent workforce participation rate and an unemployment rate of 5.2 percent. However, the official underemployment rate is 23.2 percent and an estimated 50.6 percent of workers labor in the informal sector, illustrating significant labor vulnerabilities. Semi-skilled and unskilled workers are relatively abundant at low wages. The supply of available workers is high due to layoffs in sectors affected by Ecuador’s flat economic growth since 2014. The COVID-19-related economic crisis is estimated to have resulted in the loss of 230,000 jobs in the formal sector in 2020. In addition, first Colombian and then Venezuelan migrants have added to the informal labor pool in recent years. The National Wages Council and Ministry of Labor Relations set minimum compensation levels for private sector employees annually. The minimum basic monthly salary for 2022 is USD 425 per month.
Ecuador’s Production Code requires workers be paid a dignified wage, defined as an amount that would enable a family of four with 1.6 wage earners to be able to afford basic necessities. INEC determines the cost and the products that are considered basic necessities. In February 2022, the monthly cost of basic necessities was USD 725.16, while the official family wage level is at USD 793.33. As of February 2022, INEC estimated 31.7 percent of workers had adequate employment. INEC defines adequate employment as earning at least the minimum basic salary working 40 hours per week.
Ecuador’s National Assembly approved in June 2020 limited labor reforms in an emergency law (Humanitarian Law) valid for two years to address the economic impacts of COVID-19. These reforms allowed for the reduction of working hours up to 50 percent and salary up to 45 percent; ability to modify a labor contract with mutual agreement between employer and employee; new temporary contracts for new investments that can be changed to permanent contracts at the end of the temporary period; and layoffs without severance payments only when the company closes entirely.
Ecuador’s National Assembly passed a labor reform law in March 2016 intended to promote youth employment, support unemployed workers, and introduce greater labor flexibility for companies suffering from reduced revenue. The law established a new unemployment insurance program, a subsidized youth employment scheme, temporary reductions in workers’ hours for financially strapped companies, and nine months of unpaid maternity or paternity leave.
The Law for Labor Justice and Recognition of Work in the Home, which included several changes related to labor and social security, took effect in April 2015. The law limits the yearly bonus paid to employees, which is equal to 15 percent of companies’ profits and is required by law, to 24 times the minimum wage. Any surplus profits are to be handed over to Ecuadorian Social Security Institute (IESS). The law also mandates that employees’ 13th and 14th-month bonuses be paid in installments throughout the year instead of in lump sums. Employees have the option to opt out of this change and continue to receive the payments in lump sums. The law eliminated fixed-term employee contracts and replaced them with indefinite contracts, which shortens the allowable trial period for employees to 90 days. The law also allows participation in social security pensions for non-paid work at home.
The Labor Code provides for a 40-hour work week, 15 calendar days of annual paid vacation, restrictions and penalties for those who employ child labor, general protection of worker health and safety, minimum wages and bonuses, maternity leave, and employer-provided benefits. The 2008 Constitution bans child labor, requires hiring workers with disabilities, and prohibits strikes in most of the public sector. Unpaid internships are not permitted in Ecuador.
Most workers in the private sector and at SOEs have the constitutional right to form trade unions, and local law allows for unionization of any company with more than 30 employees. Private employers are required to engage in collective bargaining with recognized unions. The Labor Code provides for resolution of conflicts through a tripartite arbitration and conciliation board process. The Code also prohibits discrimination against union members and requires that employers provide space for union activities.
Workers fired for organizing a labor union are entitled to limited financial indemnification, but the law does not mandate reinstatement. The Public Service Law enacted in October 2010 prohibits public sector workers in strategic sectors from joining unions, exercising collective bargaining rights, or paralyzing public services in general. The Constitution lists health; environmental sanitation; education; justice; fire brigade; social security; electrical energy; drinking water and sewerage; hydrocarbon production; processing, transport, and distribution of fuel; public transport; and post and telecommunications as strategic sectors. Public workers who are not under the Public Service Law may join a union and bargain collectively since they are governed by the provisions under the Labor Code. Approximately 3 percent of the total workforce was unionized, with the number of public and private unions registered by the Ministry of Labor decreasing by half since 2017. Labor unions and associations reported difficulties in registering unions in the Ministry of Labor due to excessive requirements and ministry staff shortages.
13. Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment Statistics
|Host Country Statistical source*||USG or international statistical source||USG or International Source of Data: BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other|
|Host Country Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ($B USD)||2020||$98.80.||2019||$108.1|
|Foreign Direct Investment||Host Country Statistical source*||USG or international statistical source||USG or international Source of data: BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other|
|U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions)||2020||$29||2019||$681||BEA data available at
|Host country’s FDI in the United States ($M USD, stock positions)||2020||$36||2019||$38||BEA data available at
|Total inbound stock of FDI as % host GDP||2020
|21.4%||2019||18.2%||UNCTAD data available at
* Source for Host Country Data: Central Bank of Ecuador. The Central Bank publishes FDI calculated as net flows only. Outward Direct Investment statistics are not published by the Central Bank.
|Direct Investment from/in Counterpart Economy Data|
|From Top Five Sources/To Top Five Destinations (US Dollars, Millions)|
|Inward Direct Investment||Outward Direct Investment|
|Total Inward||$493.0||100%||Total Outward||Amount||100%|
|“0” reflects amounts rounded to +/- USD 500,000.|
Source: Central Bank of Ecuador – September 2021 data. The Central Bank publishes FDI calculated as net flows only. The Central Bank does not publish Outward Direct Investment statistics, nor is there information available on the IMF’s CDIS website.
14. Contact for More Information
US Embassy Quito
E12-170 Avirigas y Eloy Alfaro