Uruguay’s Foreign Minister Luis Almagro highlighted that Mercosur is the “main buyer” of Uruguayan exports and strongly defended the country's presence in the regional group, a controversial issue since much of the country's political system and most of the business community want a more dynamic, open trade block.
Almagro underlined that “three out of Uruguay’s four main trade partners belong to the bloc,” referring to Brazil, Argentina and Venezuela. The foreign minister made the statement during the presentation of a book about his four years as chancellor.
The minister highlighted that Uruguay sells most of its manufactured exports to the bloc. ”Mercosur allows Uruguay to diversify its exports and to sell products with more value added, which generates more jobs,” he said.
According to the report he presented, Uruguay’s exports grew from 2.9 billion in 2004 to 9.15 billion in 2013.
Despite repeated differences with the Argentine government of Cristina Fernandez, the administration of Uruguayan President José Mujica has remained committed to Mercosur.
It is also expected that Tabare Vazquez, who most probably will be confirmed on Sunday as Uruguay's next president will likely continue to work in that direction, prioritizing regional integration.
However Uruguay has followed the lead of Brazil in demanding a more flexible Mercosur particularly regarding trade agreements with third countries, and finding ways around the consensus clause which means all five full members must coincide on any major decision, precisely on sensitive issues as expanding trade partners and tariffs.
Argentina's policies of defending its own domestic market, jobs and promoting manufacturing have led to repeated clashes inside Mercosur. Likewise many complaints refer to the fact that Mercosur has lost its original purpose of promoting trade and has become a highly political group.
Furthermore the option of the Pacific Alliance, (Chile. Peru, Mexico and Colombia) which promotes open markets, free trade, foreign investment and has agreed on drastic tariff reductions as a means of competing in the Pacific-Asia basin has become an increasing magnet in the region.
Uruguay and Paraguay already have observer status in the Alliance and several of the most dynamic economies in the region such as Panama, Costa Rica and even Canada are considering joining the group.
Meanwhile on the Mercosur side, Bolivia has applied to become full member as have Suriname and Guyana.