Ecuador has filed its application to join the CPTPP trade pact as the country moves to reduce its reliance on oil and diversify its economy through exports.

The foreign ministry tweeted Dec. 17 that it has "submitted the letter of application for membership" in the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership.

New Zealand, the depository for the trade pact, accepted the letter and asked other members to assess its application, the ministry said.

A spokesperson for New Zealand's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade said: "The next step in this process is for the CPTPP group as a whole, through the CPTPP Commission, to decide whether to commence accession processes with Ecuador."

Ecuador will likely face hurdles in meeting the CPTPP's tough market liberalization requirements. Whether its application process will move forward smoothly is uncertain.

With a population of about 17 million, Ecuador counts oil, bananas and shrimp as its main exports. The country left the OPEC oil producer cartel in 2020 and is making efforts to find other revenue sources.

In a September interview with Spain-based news agency EFE, Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso said he wanted to expand trade with top economies.

"Our aim is very clear: signing free trade agreements with at least the world's 10 largest economies," Lasso said. "This includes the United States, China, Japan, South Korea and also the Euro-Asia group."

Many governments are showing interest in joining the CPTPP, including the U.K., China and Taiwan. Ecuador is the first Latin American nation to apply for membership in the latest wave. The 11 current signatories include Mexico, Chile and Peru.

Ecuador pursued left-leaning and anti-American policies under President Rafael Correa, who was in office from January 2007 to May 2017. As the country strengthened its social safety net and took protectionist measures, it limited its free trade agreements to a handful of nations, including Chile.

President Lenin Moreno, who succeeded Correa, shifted course and pushed for opening up the economy. Lasso, a former bank chief who took office this May, has maintained Moreno's policy.

Lasso also seeks to join the Pacific Alliance, a Latin American trade bloc of Mexico, Chile, Colombia and Peru.

Source: Nikkei