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Following the 2017 elections that brought him to power, Lenin Moreno’s administration has demonstrated his willingness to take an independent line distinct to that of his one-time political mentor, Rafael Correa. The new government continues to implement policies to encourage more foreign investments, with a particular focus in the mining sector. Such policies include tax reforms to eliminate windfall profits and the application of a capital gains tax to all mining corporations. The government has also opened a number of new areas for mining exploration and announced new concessions to various international players; overall, law firms have noted a distinct uptick of activity in the infrastructure sector and, particularly, the increasing participation of Chinese companies.

February 2018 also saw a ‘seven-question’ referendum held in February, which, among other things, resulted in the return of presidential term limits; apparently innocuous, acceptance of the re-instatement of a two-term limit (removed in 2015 by Moreno’s predecessor) were in effect a vote of confidence in the Moreno administration and a rejection of the possibility of another Correa administration. The referendum’s other questions tackled issues including the barring of those convicted of corruption from public office and the banning of mining entirely from protected and indigenous areas. Headline economic developments include a sharp hike in general corporate income tax which has been raised from 20 to 25 per cent. Other recent legislative changes include new regulations enacted by the Ministry of Labour regarding labour harassment, with employers now required to develop internal investigation procedures. Other restrictions that previously prevented companies from having more than 20% of their headcount made up of foreign employees have been lifted.

In the legal market, following CorralRosales and Carmigniani Pérez Abogados’ mid-2017 demerger, CorralRosales has now absorbed the former Estudio Jurídico Gallegos, giving a considerable boost to the firm’s international IP strength. Overall, Pérez Bustamante & Ponce (PBP) remains the predominant market player with relatively recent market entrant Ferrere Ecuador (established in 2015), increasingly seen as its primary competitor in the wake of a significant spin-off and departures from full service heavyweight Bustamante & Bustamante. Mid-sized firms with a slightly narrower service offering – such as CorralRosales and Fabara & Compañía – also continue to compete strongly and offer top-notch service. However, smaller start-ups, most notably Flor & Hurtado (a spin off from Bustamante & Bustamante) and Pino Elizalde Abogados, (whose founding partners come from the Guayaquil-based Coronel & Pérez and Noboa, Peña & Torres, Abogados, respectively), are among the latest of a number of small new firms seeking to provide an alternative for both local and multinational clients; both opened their doors in 2017. Additional mid-size firms of importance include Coronel & Pérez, Romero Arteta Ponce, Consulegis Abogados, Falconi Puig Abogados, Paz Horowitz Abogados, Lexvalor Abogados and Carmigniani Pérez Abogados. Gonzalez Peñaherrera & Asociados and Sempértegui Ontaneda Abogados come to the fore in energy and natural resources-related matters in particular – although both have a broader service offering; while Bermeo & Bermeo Law Firm, Falconi Puig Abogados and Romero Corral Abogados all impress in the IP sector. Jaramillo Dávila Abogados and Almeida Guzmán & Asociados are the foremost specialist firms in the labour and tax sectors, respectively. Innovative ‘outlierTobar ZVS Spingarn is also increasingly relevant.

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