Mercosur “going through its worst moment in history” claims Uruguay
Uruguay’s Vice-president Danilo Astori said Mercosur is going through its worst moment in history because some of its members in practical terms “are denying the most basic principles”.
“Mercosur is going through its worst moment in history. This must be analyzed. In practical terms there is a denial of the most basic principles of the Mercosur treaty”, said Astori in direct reference to the Argentine trade barriers which are having a big impact for Uruguayan manufacturers.
However, Astori who was invited to address the Uruguay/US Chamber of Commerce insisted that the only way to overcome the conflict is to continue with negotiations, with patience, and admitted “I don’t know” any other path.
“We need professionalism, patience. Uruguay must defend its businesspeople and production. You can’t suggest to entrepreneurs to look for other markets. We must continue negotiating in spite of all the problems”
But Astori also admitted that the ‘notorious difficulties’ between Uruguay and Argentina go “well beyond the trade barriers” and include differences such as the “dredging of shared waters, ports, energy, gas and electric power”.
He anticipated that the inconveniences with Argentina “could extend for an important period of time” and admitted he could not for-see in the near future circumstances that “could modify the situation” and that is why for Uruguay the only route is to “negotiate with professionalism” and have a good reserve of patience”.
Uruguay is particularly interested in the dredging of the Martin Garcia canal, one of the two River Plate navigation accesses, which leads to Nueva Palmira, the most active export port for grains and oilseeds. The other canal, Mitre leads directly to Buenos Aires and is constantly dredged.
At the end of April Argentine Foreign Minister Hector Timerman visited Montevideo and announced that the dredging of the Martin Garcia canal would be put out to tender on May 3. However this did not happen because the Argentine delegation at the umbrella commission that manages River Plate affairs, CARP, interposed several objections.
Corruption allegations involving the Argentine delegation and the company currently responsible for River Plate dredging are under administrative investigation.
“There are no advances that can ensure us that Uruguay in the short term will complete its dredging objective. We were informed that the Argentine side of CARP would approve the tender conditions, both by Timerman and the Argentine ambassador Dante Dovena, but this has not occurred”, said Astori.
Nevertheless in spite of frustrations, “we must keep to our policy of open regionalism”.
The comment of Astori can also be seen as a low key criticism of President Jose Mujica who on taking office March 2010 reopened negotiations based on close contacts with the government of Cristina Fernandez on the hope that trade and a long list of other issues could be addressed effectively.
However so far trade restrictions persist, the dredging in spite of promises remains delayed as do many of the other issues in the agenda, while Argentina increasingly demands more international political support for the administration of Cristina Fernandez.
The issue has been strongly criticized by the Uruguayan opposition with strong nods of support from some groupings of the ruling catch all coalition.