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MAJOR RETAIL INDUSTRY LEADERS URGE U.S. GOVERNMENT TO CONTINUE WIN-WIN TRADE PROGRAMS WITH ECUADOR

Thursday, February 28th, 2013

Wal-Mart, Whole Foods & Safeway: Staple foods, popular products & millions of American jobs in jeopardy if the U.S. does not renew trade agreements with Ecuador


WASHINGTON, D.C. (February 28, 2013)- This week, as the recovery-conscious U.S. government weighs renewal of long-standing trade preference programs, major retail industry leaders including Wal-Mart, Safeway and Whole Foods strongly urged the U.S. government to keep trade going to protect thousands of U.S. jobs and many products that U.S. consumers enjoy, such as roses, broccoli and artichokes. These statements were provided to a U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) hearing held to determine whether to amend the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) program. The GSP program allows duty-free access to the U.S. market for hundreds of imported products from developing economies, such as Ecuador.

“We believe that the ability of U.S. companies to source roses at a competitive price not only contributes to the economic development of the region, but also offers U.S. consumers a distinctive product in terms of quality and variety,” wrote Sarah Thorn, Senior Director of International Trade at Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the largest grocery retailer in the U.S. as well as the largest private employer, to the USTR. “We are also concerned about the potentially devastating impact that a decision to raise tariffs on roses will have on the Ecuadorian people. Considering that there are close to 50,000 direct and indirect workers that depend on the rose industry in Ecuador, the economic consequences of such event would be catastrophic for that country.”

Also at stake this year is the renewal of another vital trade program with Ecuador, the Andean Trade Promotion and Drug Eradication Act (ATPDEA), which not only provides low-cost, high-quality products to millions of U.S. consumers, but has helped thousands of families rise from poverty and been a major weapon in the U.S. War on Drugs. This program will expire on July 31, 2013.

Many have joined Wal-Mart – from large U.S. enterprises to local mom and pop shops – in making clear to the USTR that U.S. jobs are at stake if such products are not included in the GSP or if the ATPDEA is allowed to expire. They stressed that if the USTR does not ratify the GSP eligibility of Ecuadorian goods, U.S. industries will experience a significant increase in cost of such goods. In the long run, the absence of these programs will threaten U.S. consumer buying power and the viability of U.S. companies at a time when the U.S. economy is still in recovery. For example, there are nearly 20,000 florist shops in the U.S., employing nearly 100,000 workers, and if fresh cut roses are not added to the GSP, these shops would suffer greatly from a lack of supply, higher prices and lower quality of flowers. In addition, the Ecuadorian flower industry generates tens of thousands of jobs in Ecuador – more than 50% of which are held by women – who would otherwise have little to no economic alternatives to support their livelihoods apart from the narcotics trade.

“Adding fresh cut roses, frozen broccoli, and preserved artichokes to the GSP is a win-win proposition,” said Ecuador’s Ambassador to the U.S., Nathalie Cely, during her testimony on Thursday before the United States International Trade Commission in Washington, DC. “These products generate thousands of jobs and economic growth in the U.S. and Ecuador. Moreover, both countries benefit greatly from trade related to these products.” In 2012, trade between Ecuador and the U.S. totaled approximately $17 billion and U.S. exports to Ecuador have more than doubled from $2.6 billion to $6.7 billion in just six years.

The ATPDEA is a two-decades old trade program, currently between the U.S. and Ecuador, which provides for free trade among select products and is designed to strengthen Ecuador’s ability to tackle drug trafficking along its borders. The GSP is an alternative trade preference program that Ecuador and 129 other developing countries share with the United States, which enables open trade of a wide range of products such as Ecuadorian fresh cut roses, broccoli and artichokes.

Thanks in part to these programs at risk of expiring, the Government of Ecuador has reduced poverty from about 38 percent in 2006 to 27 percent in 2012. National unemployment has also been reduced from 11 percent in 2006 to 4 percent in 2012. Access to secondary education has increased substantially, from 47% to 62%. In addition, it has also contributed to the strategic partnership between the United States and Ecuador regarding counter narcotics.

List of companies and organizations in favor of GSP product inclusion:
American Frozen Food Institute
Association of Floral Importers of Florida
Bloomfield Plantation Inc.
Board of County Commissioners Miami-Dade County
Boyd & Jenerette
Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce
Ecuadorian American Chamber of Commerce of Greater Miami
ExpoFlores
Floreco Inc.
Kittelberger Florist, Inc./KBF Wholesale
Lubbock Wholesale Florists, Inc.
Manhattan Chamber of Commerce
Memphis Metro Wholesale Florist, Inc.
Royal Flowers
Safeway
Seabrook Bros. LAN Airlines
Superior Foods
TriMe Associates
Union Wholesale Floral Supply
Wal-Mart
Webbs Wholesale Florist, Inc
Whole Foods


Flavio Amaya: ¡Nunca aceptes un NO como respuesta!

Thursday, February 28th, 2013

Flavio Amaya de 34 años de edad nació en Porto Viejo y creció en El Oro, Ecuador. Flavio siempre soñó con visitar nuevos lugares, conocer nueva gente y aprender nuevos idiomas. “Mientras estudiaba en la universidad en Ecuador, aprendí quichua e hice una pasantía en la Embajada en donde ayudaba a los quechuas a comunicarse con los empleados de la Embajada. Me dí cuenta que a través de mi trabajo, yo podría conocer  gente nueva y explorar oportunidades fuera del Ecuador,” explicó Flavio. “Mis amigos de la Embajada siempre me contaban sobre las oportunidades y la educación en los Estados Unidos, es por eso que decidí solicitar una visa,” añadió.

En 1998, cuando Flavio tenía 18 años, recibió su primera visa de turista y decidió visitar los Estados Unidos. En el 2000, recibió su visa de estudiante y vino a los Estados Unidos con un programa de intercambio estudiantil para aprender inglés (ESL, por sus siglas en inglés) en Annapolis, Maryland.

“Los primeros meses en los Estados Unidos fueron muy difíciles para mí, porque yo no hablaba inglés y a mí me gusta mucho hablar, entonces me sentía incómodo al tratar de explicar todo con señas y gestos pero eventualmente aprendí,” explicó Flavio.

Hoy en día Flavio no sólo habla inglés sino que también habla portugués, quichua y está aprendiendo mandarín. “Descubrí que soy bueno para los idiomas y eso me encanta,” dijo.

Desde joven, Flavio siempre quiso explorar el mundo aunque este camino no fue fácil. Flavio explica que a veces se sentía confundido porque ambicionaba vivir en otros lugares, pero es hijo único de una familia muy unida y tradicional. “Siempre quise esto para mí,” dijo. “Afortunadamente, mis padres me apoyaron.”

Después de terminar el programa de ESL, Flavio solicitó a la Universidad Strayer en Manassas, Virginia, para obtener su licenciatura en Negocios Internacionales. Cuando se graduó decidió continuar su educación y obtuvo su maestría en Ingeniería de Sistemas.

“Decidí seguir en la Universidad Strayer porque es una muy buena universidad para los estudiantes internacionales. La escuela me ayudó durante todo el proceso y era apropiada para mi presupuesto,” dijo Flavio.

La aventura de Flavio no siempre ha sido fácil, pero él ha aprendido mucho. Al recordar algunos momentos difíciles, explicó que, “No podemos sentirnos víctimas, eso no sirve aquí. Muchas veces las personas tratan de hacernos sentir incapaces, pero yo siempre digo ‘Gracia para mí, ignorancia para ellos,’ es decir que muchas veces la gente no sabe quién eres y puede ofenderte, pero no dejes afectarte. Es mejor sonreír y seguir adelante.”

Actualmente, Flavio trabaja en la oficina del Congresista John Shimkus (R-IL), en donde ha sido empleado desde el 2004. Él comenzó como pasante y después de un año y medio fue contratado como Corresponsal Legislativo. Flavio se encarga de responder a las preguntas de los constituyentes a través de cartas, llamadas telefónicas y correos electrónicos. Además, es Director de la Base de Datos del Congresista y está encargado  de mantener actualizada la página Web del Congresista y ayudar en su campaña de reelección.

Cuando decidió solicitar una pasantía en el Congreso, Flavio pidió ayuda a su escuela. “Fui con  mi consejera y le pregunté si sería posible hacer una pasantía en el Congreso,” explicó. Desafortunadamente, la consejera le dijo que no porque su inglés no era bueno, no era ciudadano norteamericano y la universidad no tenía conexiones con el Congreso.

“Le pedí ayuda a mi consejera para poder mejorar mi currículum vitae. Ella decidió  ayudarme pero insistía en que yo no estaba preparado para algo así,” dijo Flavio. “Imprimí 48 copias de mi CV y las distribuí a todos los Congresistas Demócratas quienes tenían empleados latinos en su equipo,” explicó. “Aunque yo no debía dar mi CV a los Congresistas Republicanos, de igual manera lo hice,” dijo.

Después de un tiempo, le ofrecieron dos pasantías, una en la oficina de un Congresista Demócrata y otra con un Republicano. “Decidí hacer mi pasantía con el Congresista Republicano porque era una pasantía de seis meses y me dieron la oportunidad de ayudar al Congresista Shimkus con su español,” dijo Flavio.

Flavio explica que está muy agradecido con los Estados Unidos y feliz de estar aquí aprovechando todas las oportunidades que se le brindan. “Amo este país porque puedo ser lo que soy y creer lo que creo. Yo soy homosexual y este país me respeta por lo que soy,” dijo. “No debemos discriminar basándonos en estereotipos sino respetarnos por lo que realmente somos,” añadió.

En su tiempo libre, Flavio disfruta del arte, de sus amigos y del diseño. Sus planes futuros incluyen obtener una maestría con una concentración en Administración en Sistemas de Información, estudiar Diseño de Moda y avanzar en su carrera en el Congreso. “He estado trabajando en la Cámara de Representantes por casi ocho años. Sé cómo trabaja y me encanta, pero estoy listo para avanzar al próximo nivel: el Senado,” explicó.

Según Flavio, todo tiene su tiempo. “Seguiré aprendiendo cómo funciona la vida. En el  futuro me encantaría ser Embajador de mi país y trabajar para el bienestar de mi gente,” dijo. Con admiración a su país, Flavio concluyó diciendo que “Ecuador tiene demasiadas cosas bellas que ofrecer y me gustaría mostrarlas al mundo.”


Flavio Amaya: Don’t take no for an answer!

Thursday, February 28th, 2013

Flavio Amaya, 34, was born in Porto Viejo and raised in El Oro, Ecuador. Flavio always dreamed of visiting news places, meeting new people, and learning new languages. “While studying at the university in Ecuador, I learned Kichwa and worked at an internship at the Embassy helping Quechuan people to communicate with Embassy employers. I realized that by helping them, I was able to meet new people and open my possibilities outside Ecuador,” explained Flavio. “My friends at the Embassy were always telling me about the United States, its education, and its opportunities, so I decided to apply for a visa,” he added.

In 1998, when Flavio was only 18 years old, he received his first tourist visa and decided to visit the United States. In 2000, he received his student visa and traveled to the United States as an exchange student, enrolling in an English as a Second Language (ESL) program in Annapolis, Maryland.

“The first months in the United States were very hard for me because I did not speak the language and I am a very chatty person, so I felt awkward trying to explain myself with signs and gestures, but I learned,” Flavio explained.

Now, Flavio not only speaks English, but he also speaks Portuguese, Kichwa, and he is even learning Mandarin. “I discovered that I am really good with languages and I love it,” he said.

Since he was young, Flavio always had envisioned himself going out and exploring the world, although, choosing to follow this path did not necessarily come easy for him. Flavio explained he was conflicted with his ambitions to be elsewhere because he grew up as an only child in a very united and traditional family. “I always wanted this for me,” he said, “Fortunately, my parents supported me.”

After finishing his ESL program, Flavio applied to Strayer University in Manassas, Virginia to pursue a Bachelor’s degree in International Business. When he graduated, he decided to continue his education and obtained a Master’s degree in Software Engineering.

“I decided to continue my education at Strayer University because it is a very good university for international students. They are very helpful throughout the process, and it was appropriate for my budget,” stated Flavio.

Flavio’s adventurous road has not always been easy, but he has learned many lessons along the way. Remembering his struggles, Flavio explains, “You cannot victimize yourself, that doesn’t work here. Sometimes people are going to try to bring you down, but as I always say ‘Fun for me, ignorance for them.’ – meaning, sometimes people don’t know who you are and they may offend you, but don’t let it affect you. Laugh and keep on going!”

When he decided to apply for an internship in Congress, Flavio turned to his school for help. “I went to my guidance counselor and asked if it would be possible to get an internship in Congress,” he said. Unfortunately, for Flavio, he was told no because he was not fluent in English, was not a U.S. citizen, and Strayer University did not have any connections in Congress.

“I asked my counselor to help build my resume. Even though she kept telling me I was not ready for that, she agreed to help me,” said Flavio.

Sometime later he was offered two internships, one with a Democrat and the other with a Republican. “I accepted an internship with a Republican congressman because it was a 6-month internship and gave me the opportunity to help Congressman Shimkus with his Spanish,” said Flavio.

In 2004, Congressman John Shimkus (R-IL) hired Flavio to work in his congressional office in Washington, DC. He started working at the office as an intern and a year and a half later he was hired as a Legislative Correspondent where he assisted constituents with their concerns by corresponding on behalf of the Congressman’s office through letters, phone calls, and emails. Since 2010, he is in charge of the IT Department for “Volunteers for Shimkus Campaign.”

As Flavio explains, he is very thankful to the United States and is happy living there, taking advantage of all its opportunities. “I love this country because I can be really open with my beliefs. I am gay and this country respects me this way,” he said. “We don’t have to discriminate based on stereotypes, but we have to respect each other for what we really are,” he added.

In his free time, Flavio loves to go out with his friends, enjoy art, and design fashion pieces. His future plans include completing an MBA in Information Systems, study Fashion Design, and further his career in Congress. “I’ve been working at the House of Representatives level for almost eight years. I know how it works, I love it and I’m looking forward to a new adventure. Perhaps a nice new career in fashion design or the Senate, you never know,” he explained.

According to Flavio, everything has its own time. “I will continue to learn how life works. In the future, I would like to become an Ambassador for my country and work for the wellbeing of my people,” he said. Admiring his home country, Flavio concluded, “Ecuador has so many beautiful things to offer and I would like to show that to the world.”


Freddy Velázquez: Education is the key to success

Thursday, February 28th, 2013

Freddy Velázquez, 38, was born and raised in Quito, Ecuador. When he graduated from high school, Freddy discovered his true calling. “When I graduated from high school I needed a computer to work on my thesis project but I did not know how to use it,” he explained. “I had to pay someone to help me use it, so I decided to learn,” Freddy recalled.

After overcoming this challenge, Freddy vowed to become computer proficient and enrolled a course to learn computer science.  “After taking this basic course, I was amazed by computers and technology,” he said. Later, he enrolled at the Escuela Politécnica del Ejército (ESPE) to begin his career in computer sciences.

Raised and educated by his mother, Freddy is the oldest of three children. With his father living in the United States during his childhood, Freddy explains he became a strong and independent person thanks to his mom. “I needed to be independent and mature because I was the oldest,” he added, “so I learned the basics of life at a very short age.”

In 1996, Freddy came to United States to visit his father who lived in the Washington, D.C. area, “I just came for my summer vacations, and I really liked it in here,” he said. It did not take him long to realize he wanted to stay in the United States to continue his education.

Velázquez was 21 when he decided to immigrate to the United States and start his new life. He started looking for a school where he could learn English and transfer the college credits he earned at ESPE. He enrolled in Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) where he obtained his Associate’s degree in Computer Sciences.

“It was hard to come to a new country, to learn a new language and to become part of a new culture, but it was a challenge that I needed to overcome in order to be successful and achieve my goals,” said Freddy.

After graduating from NOVA, Freddy wanted to continue his education and keep about the field of technology. Freddy explained, “In this career you never stop learning. Computer technology is always changing and there is always a new program, a new software, a new app.” Continuing his education, Freddy enrolled at George Mason University, where he earned his Bachelor’s degree in computer sciences.

Even though he missed his home country and his family, Freddy was very focused on his career., “I spent most of my time studying and one day I received an unsolicited job offer,” he recalled, “That was when I realized I was really becoming part of this culture and started planning my life in the United States.”

After graduating from college, Freddy became a computer engineer and began working at Connected Services, a software company that provides web-based platforms to facilitate and monitor the administration of businesses.

Later, he joined My Great Software as a consultant working to support and facilitate services for companies like Home Depot and Starbucks. Now, Freddy is working to develop and design his own software program: Facturabook. “Facturabook is a new software that will help small businesses maintain a clear idea of their expenses, invoices, clients and other accounting needs,” Freddy explained.

“I love what I do. Technology is my passion and every time I create something new, I learn something I did not even know existed,” Freddy proclaimed. “For me, creating and designing an application is like writing a book; I am using, writing, and exposing my own ideas,” he said.

In addition to his freelance work, Freddy serves as a consultant for different Latin American organizations in the Washington, D.C. area. “I enjoy working with all these clients and helping them with their technology needs,” Freddy said. “But what I love the most about being a consultant is that I am my own boss and I have enough time to keep developing my own software,” he added.

This year, Freddy plans to launch Facturabook in his home country, “I love and miss my country and I would like to go back there and share what I have learned here,” he concluded. “Education is the key to success,” said Freddy, “So I am planning to continue learning every day of my life.”


Freddy Velázquez: La educación es la clave del éxito

Thursday, February 28th, 2013

Freddy Velázquez tiene 38 años, nació y creció en Quito, Ecuador. Cuando se graduó de la escuela secundaria, Freddy descubrió lo que quería hacer con su vida. “Cuando me gradué de la escuela secundaria, necesitaba una computadora para trabajar en mi proyecto de tesis, pero no sabía como funcionaba,” explicó. “Tuve que pagarle a alguien para que me enseñara como poder usarla, así que decidí aprender,” recuerda Freddy.

Después de superar este desafío, Freddy se comprometió a aprender a usar una computadora y se inscribió en un curso de computación. “Después de haber tomado los cursos básicos, estaba fascinado con las computadoras y la tecnología,” indicó. Poco después, se inscribió en la Escuela Politécnica del Ejército (ESPE) para comenzar su carrera en computación.

Freddy, quien es el mayor de tres hijos explica que mientras su padre vivía en los Estados Unidos él se convirtió en una persona independiente y fuerte gracias a su madre. “Tenía que ser independiente y maduro porque soy el mayor,” recuerda Freddy. “Así que aprendí las cosas básicas de la vida cuando era muy joven.”
En 1996, Freddy viajó a los Estados Unidos para visitar a su padre que vivía en el área de Washington, DC. “Sólo vine por mis vacaciones de verano y me gustó mucho,” dijo. Después de poco tiempo, se dio cuenta que quería quedarse en los Estados Unidos para continuar con su educación.

Freddy tenía 21 años cuando decidió emigrar a los Estados Unidos y comenzar una nueva vida. Empezó a buscar una escuela donde pudiera aprender inglés y transferir los créditos universitarios de la ESPE. Se inscribió en Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) en donde obtuvo su bachillerato en Computación.
“Fue difícil venir a un nuevo país, aprender un nuevo idioma y ser parte de una nueva cultura, pero era un desafío que tenía que superar para poder ser exitoso y alcanzar mi objetivo,” dijo.

Después de graduarse de NOVA, Freddy decidió continuar su educación en el campo de la computación. Explicó que, “En esta carrera siempre sigues aprendiendo. La computación siempre cambia, siempre hay un nuevo programa, una nueva aplicación.” Para continuar con su educación, Freddy se inscribió en la Universidad George Mason donde obtuvo su licenciatura en Computación.

A pesar de extrañar a su país y a su familia, Freddy estaba muy concentrado en su carrera, “Pasaba la mayor parte de mi tiempo estudiando y un día alguien me ofreció trabajo aunque no lo había solicitado,” recordó. “En ese momento fue que empecé realmente a sentirme parte de esta cultura y comencé a planear mi vida en los Estados Unidos.”

Después de graduarse de la universidad, Freddy se convirtió en ingeniero de computación y comenzó a trabajar en Connected Services, una compañía de software que ofrece plataformas para facilitar la creación de páginas Web y supervisar la administración de empresas.

Luego trabajó como consultor para My Great Software en donde apoyaba y facilitaba servicios para compañías como Home Depot y Starbucks. Ahora, Freddy trabaja en diseñar y desarrollar su propio programa de software: Facturabook. “Facturabook es un nuevo software que ayudará a pequeñas empresas a tener una idea clara de sus gastos, facturas, clientes y otros servicios de contabilidad necesarios,” explicó Freddy.

“Me encanta lo que hago. La tecnología es mi pasión y siempre tengo la oportunidad de crear algo nuevo y aprender algo que no sabía que existiera,” dijo. “Para mí, diseñar y crear una aplicación es como escribir un libro donde escribo y expongo mis puntos de vista,” añadió.

Freddy también trabaja como consultor para varias organizaciones Latinoamericanas en Washington, D.C. “Me gusta trabajar con mis clientes y ayudarles con sus necesidades técnicas,” dijo. “Pero lo que más me gusta es que soy mi propio jefe y tengo tiempo para seguir desarrollando mi propio software,” agregó.
El plan de Freddy es lanzar Facturabook este año en su país natal. “Amo y extraño a mi país y me encantaría regresar y compartir con otras personas lo que yo he aprendido,” concluyó. “La educación es la clave del éxito,” agregó. “Así que mi plan es continuar estudiando por el resto de mis días.”