New round of US influence lobbying in South America
United States Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez arrived Monday in Uruguay as part of a regional visit that also includes Brazil, with the purpose of further promoting greater bilateral trade, economic growth and greater commercial cooperation.
Gutierrez is scheduled to meet with President Tabare Vazquez and sign several cooperation agreements with Energy and Industry minister Jorge Lepra. During his two day visit he will also meet with Uruguayan entrepreneurs from the high-tech and software sectors, as well as the leadership of Uruguay's newly-created Innovation Agency to discuss regional efforts to foster innovation. Before leaving Washington Gutierrez described Uruguay "as a dynamic trading partner", adding that US exports to Uruguay grew a remarkable 131%, from 209 million in 2002 to 482 million US dollars in 2006 outperforming overall U.S. export growth, which was 14% for the same period. This is the nineteenth top US delegation, --although Gutierrez' first-- that calls in Uruguay since 2005 when the current Socialist oriented government took office including a visit from President George Bush and State Secretary Condoleezza Rice. "The United States is committed to advancing freedom, economic opportunity and social justice throughout the Western Hemisphere by opening markets and fostering economic growth," said Gutierrez. The United States is Uruguay's third-largest trading partner, accounting for 12.8% of Uruguay's exports and supplying 6.8% of the country's imports in 2006. Uruguay-U.S. bilateral trade has more than doubled since 2002, rising 583 million to 995 million US dollars in two-way. The visit also has a significant political side since it coincides with discussions in Brazil with the region's economic teams, for the creation of the Bank of the South sponsored by Venezuela's president Hugo Chavez and which is described as a "development promoting" financial institution. Furthermore Gutierrez arrives in Montevideo following Sunday's Costa Rica referendum support vote for a free trade agreement which will help pave the way for other agreements in the region, pending Congressional approval, notably Peru, Colombia and Panama. An adverse vote in Costa Rica would have thwarted the whole drive including the Bush administration's efforts to ensure in Congress support from the Democrats, which they now dominate, for trade agreements. From Montevideo, Gutierrez will be traveling to Brazil to co-chair the U.S.-Brazil CEO Forum with US Economic Council Director Allan Hubbard, participate in the U.S.-Brazil Commercial Dialogue, and discuss how trade, innovation and open markets foster positive social change, economic growth and opportunity. The U.S.-Brazil CEO Forum is designed to bring together American and Brazilian business leaders to identify ways to strengthen economic ties between the two countries. In Brazil, Gutierrez will also hold the third meeting of the U.S.-Brazil Commercial Dialogue, which promotes and stimulates bilateral trade and investment by developing strategies for improving the competitiveness of both countries. This will be Gutierrez second trip to Brazil. "The United States enjoys a strong commercial relationship with Brazil, representing 46 billion US dollars in bilateral trade last year," said Gutierrez. "The U.S.-Brazil CEO Forum provides an opportunity to discuss how to eliminate trade barriers and explore innovative concepts to streamline and improve trade between our countries."