Standing next to visiting US president George Bush, Uruguayan president Tabare Vazquez said Saturday his country supports an open integration process for the region, but is also fully supportive of a strong regional integration process.
Hosting President Bush in the camp residence of the Uruguayan Executive in Anchorena Park and following a morning meeting, both leaders held a press conference where Vazquez confirmed loyalty to Mercosur but also demanded the possibility of developing bilateral trade relations "with other countries". "Uruguay is where it is (geographically), there's no way we can move and besides we don't want to move. Trade as well as cultural and historic relations with regional countries is very longstanding and solid" underlined President Vazquez. Therefore "we don't want a closed integration, but an open integration process" "Our Mercosur can integrate with other blocks and other countries of the world, but we want a Mercosur where each member of the process can exercise its sovereign rights to develop bilateral relations with other integration processes and other countries", he added. "In this context is that we had the honour of holding this meeting with the president of the United States", emphasized Vazquez. President Bush confirmed Uruguay and the US want to continue working together in advancing trade and investment to a degree where "the "people feel comfortable". He reiterated his commitment to free trade but admitted concern with the "growing protectionist tendencies not only in the US but in the entire world". President Bush arrived in Uruguay Friday night after meeting with Brazil's Lula da Silva in Sao Paulo and launching a bio-fuels strategic association. From Uruguay, Bush and delegation fly early Sunday to Colombia and later to Guatemala and Mexico. Bush received Vazquez last May at the White House and offered to begin talks for a free trade agreement with the US. However the bilateral trade accord initiative was vetoed by Mercosur and Uruguay ended signing at the end of 2006 a less impressive trade and investment agreement. After the press conference lunch at Anchorena Park Saturday was a typical Uruguayan lamb barbecue which, according to official reports, both the president and Mrs Bush much enjoyed. Uruguay is a leading world exporter of beef and has had access to the US market for several years, however is has been lobbying inssitently for a similar access for lamb. No wonder then the Bushes and the US delegation were invited with Uruguayan lamb.