A memorandum of understanding with Mercosur and a deep sea port to the east of Uruguay were two of the main issues addressed by visiting Chinese PM Wen Jiabao with President Jose Mujica revealed the Executive Deputy Secretary.
“The two leaders spoke about the possibility of a memorandum of understanding between China and Mercosur to boost trade and investments”, said Deputy Secretary Diego Cánepa of the last Friday/Saturday visit of the top Beijing official.
He added the issue would be addressed at the coming Mercosur summit this week in Mendoza, during which the block’s presidents will hold a “video conference” with PM Wen Jiabao.
More specifically the Uruguayan government invited China to participate in the “construction and development” of a deep water port in the Atlantic Ocean, which given its significance and cost “would become the largest investment ever in Uruguay history”.
The issue was brought up by President Mujica during a work meeting between the Uruguayan ministerial cabinet and PM Wen Jiabao and his delegation.
“President Mujica gave details on the elaboration and design of the project and its potentiality both for Uruguay and the region”, underlined Cánepa.
The construction of a deep sea port in the coast of the province of Rocha, neighbouring with Brazil is “an issue which keeps Mujica awake all night” and he is determined to have it on the rails by the time he leaves office in 2014.
“The port is strategic for the development of Uruguay” and not only has geo-political and geo-trade significance but will also represent a very important change in the design of Uruguay’s economic development” added Cánepa.
He added that several big companies have expressed an interest, and revealed that “in four months time an official Uruguayan delegation will be visiting Beijing to report extensively and in detail of the project” to the Chinese authorities.
The deep sea port on the Atlantic “will be the greatest undertaking in Uruguayan history and will demand the largest investment demand ever involving several billion dollars”.
Cánepa also pointed out that in the same area where the deep sea port is planned there are positive indications of the existence of oil and gas in the Uruguayan continental platform.
“In two or three years we’ll know if there is oil and/or gas and the port could very well offer the necessary infrastructure for such its exploitation”.
Cánepa said that the technical and feasibility studies on the planned port “are currently waiting to be approved by President Mujica and followed by the design chapter”.
The idea of a deep sea port has been floating in Uruguay for over a century, with the main project in the early XXth century when Argentina adopted a very aggressive policy towards Uruguay. In recent years Uruguay has also faced several challenges from Argentina and mainly Buenos Aires port that fears loosing its predominance in the River Plate.
Thus Mujica has resuscitated the idea of a deep sea port in an attempt to overcome the on going obstacles to Uruguay’s main ports Montevideo and Nueva Palmira from where most grains, soybeans, pulp and some minerals are shipped overseas.