Wednesday, November 30th 2005 - 20:00 UTC

Uruguay sponsors Cuba's incorporation to Mercosur

Uruguay and Cuba are interested in resuming negotiations for an economic and trade complementation agreement between Havana and Mercosur.

The agreement could be "very important" in trying to "overcome" the four decades long United States trade embargo on Cuba said Uruguayan Foreign Affairs minister Reynaldo Gargano Tuesday in Montevideo, following a meeting with visiting Cuban Deputy Foreign Secretary Rafael Dausá.

Uruguay holds the temporary chair of Mercosur (Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay) and next week will host the group's presidential summit when Venezuela's full incorporation is to be considered.

"The possible 4 + 1 agreement with Venezuela was considered during the meeting we held with Dausá", said Mr. Gargano adding that "the most certain approval of that accord would be very useful for Cuba".

Mr. Gargano denied that the potential incorporation of Cuba to Mercosur could have a negative incidence for the Investments Protection Agreement recently signed between Uruguay and United States.

"Uruguay trades with whoever it pleases", replied Mr. Gargano.

Mr. Dausá said that linking Cuba to Mercosur would "make multilateral the current bilateral tariff preference systems each member has with Cuba".

The Cuban official stressed that his two days visit to Montevideo had the purpose of "keeping expanding political, economic, trade and social relations with Uruguay".

He also thanked Uruguay's support in the recent United Nations meeting which condemned the US trade embargo on the island, an initiative that collected 181 votes against three that supported Washington's position.

Uruguayan-Cuban diplomatic relations were suspended in April 2002 when then Liberal Uruguayan president Jorge Batlle considered Cuban leader Fidel Castro's remarks "offensive" and "out of diplomatic protocol".

Normal relations resumed last March when the current left wing coalition under President Tabare Vazquez took office.

Since then Uruguayan exports to Cuba, mainly dairy produce, have surged 300% while Cuban sales expanded 68%, particularly chemicals. Other areas of bilateral exchange are medical services and technical cooperation in financial affairs.

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