Edward Snowden’s meteoric rise to international fame seems to have fizzled out as the mainstream media’s ADD kicks in. But we might be reminded of the little troublemaker the next time we head to our local grocery store. Thanks to Edward Snowden, frozen broccoli, canned artichokes, and even cut flowers could soon be out of your price range.
It’s no secret that the NSA whistleblower’s globe-trotting escape from the U.S. government has sparked international tensions this summer. It appears those tensions may be escalating from cross words exchanged in the press to tangible trade consequences. Despite calls for Ecuadorian leaders to deny Snowden asylum, it seems the U.S.’s wishes may be ignored, straining relationships between the nations.
These tensions couldn’t happen at a worse time. Certain trade agreements between the U.S. and Ecuador are set to expire, including those that keep Ecuadorian imports of broccoli, artichokes, and flowers tariff-free. Meanwhile, Ecuador is urging Congress to approve another trade program to replace the Andean Trade Promotion and Drug Eradication Act.
“Our government will not reward countries for bad behavior. If Snowden is granted asylum in Ecuador, I will lead the effort to prevent the renewal of Ecuador’s duty-free access,” Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) in a statement criticizing Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa.
If trade preferences aren’t renewed, Ecuador would lose at least 40,000 jobs. Despite this, Correa has stood firm in his pro-Snowden stance, boldly stating that his country would not respond to what he considers to be blackmail. “Ecuador doesn’t accept pressure or threats from anyone and doesn’t barter its principles and sovereignty or submit to mercantile interests,” he said in a speech in June.
Consumers will be hit hard by these political games. Tariffs could spike as high as 14.9 percent for frozen broccoli and 6.8 percent for certain kinds of flowers, which will be especially tough on florists and flower lovers as Ecuador is responsible for 30 percent of all stems imported into the US.
What’s worse, the flower industry simply doesn’t have the margins to absorb that type of hit. Since a big bouquet of roses isn’t a must-have, the industry could seriously suffer if prices balloon.
Edward Snowden revealed the dark side of our country’s national security policies, setting off a complicated domino-line of events that could leave angry wives unappeased and picky children thankful if Ecuadorian flowers and broccoli are blocked. History will immortalize his revelations, so perhaps for the time being, we can live without broccoli, in the name of freedom.
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