Mexico president Felipe Calderón and Uruguay’s Tabare Vazquez signed on Friday in Montevideo a Strategic Association accord to strengthen political dialogue and bilateral trade relations in the framework of the 2004 free trade agreement.
President Calderón is on the second leg of his current visit to South America, after having met with President Alvaro Uribe in Colombia and on Saturday is scheduled to leave for Brazil.
“This is a milestone in our bilateral relation, which brings our peoples closer and further promotes trade”, said President Calderon. He pointed out that bilateral trade has trebled between 2000 and 2008 from 180 million to over 500 million US dollars.
“The strategic alliance will strengthen trade, enable us to have a closer political dialogue and even to act jointly and in coordination in regional and world affairs”, he added.
President Vazquez underlined the advance in trade relations particularly in the framework of the bilateral free trade agreement signed in 2004 which has expanded several times and attracted investment.
The Uruguay Mexico 2004 free trade agreement is an exception since Mercosur, made up of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay, does not allow bilateral agreements between a member and a third party.
The strategic association is expected to increase bilateral trade and an administrative committee has been instructed to draft new opportunities. Other accords signed on Friday refer to double taxing and preventing fiscal elusion and evasion in both countries; promoting air links and cooperation for the protection, conservation, recovery and restitution of cultural assets which have been robbed or illicitly traded.
On Friday Calderon also visited a government primary school for a special ceremony: the delivery of the 300.000 lap top to school children. The initiative known as the Plan Ceibal, has the purpose of distributing to each Uruguayan school child a lap top with access to internet and to promote digital literacy.
The Mexican president later visited the Uruguayan parliament where he met with Vice-president Rodolfo Nin Novoa and representatives from the different political parties and presidential candidates for next October’s election.
During a brief intervention before the General Assembly Calderon said that “a highly sensitive export issue for Uruguay, such as is beef, which has faced ongoing difficulties, as of now, following this visit, will be removed”.
Uruguayan authorities thanked President Calderon for Mexico’s hospitality and open arms policy towards Uruguayan exiles during the military dictatorship (1973/1985) while the Mexican leader reciprocated saying Uruguay “never closed its doors to Mexico” when the recent outbreak of A/H1N1 virus flu.
During a press conference Calderon also expressed support for Colombia’s decision to allow US troops in its bases, which has triggered controversy in South America.
“Mexico’s foreign policy principle is non intervention” and as such it is important to have “consistency” and “gauge with homogeneous parameters” all events, he said.
“We must calibre with the same concern US military exercises in any country and naval exercises in another country of the region with the Russians; the same applies for military advisors and support from Iran or any other country outside the region. I believe we need to establish homogenous parameters before judging”.
In Latinamerica “conflicts among countries don’t contribute to solve problems” of the region. “We already have a full agenda: poverty, marginalization, social exclusion, organized crime, violence, the challenge of climate change…” he insisted.
On Saturday President Calderon is scheduled to visit the seat of the Latinamerican Integration Association in Montevideo and later fly to Brasilia to meet President Lula da Silva in the last leg of the trip.