Uruguay sees China as a ‘strategic partner’ and has kept good relations with Beijing since the two countries forged diplomatic ties in 1988, said Uruguayan Foreign Affairs minister Luis Almagro, a former ambassador to China from 2007-2009. Almagro made the statement as Chinese Vice-President Xi Jinping begun his official visit to Uruguay.
The Uruguayan official revealed that the administration of President Jose Mujica would support an initiative for the regional Mercosur customs union to reach a trade agreement with China, “although complicated and has not yet been considered or proposed by any member, it would be very positive for both sides”
Uruguay considers Xi's visit as one of the most important foreign policy events of the year that will help boost bilateral trade, investments and facilitate agreements on cultural and political issues, Almagro said, who revealed that President Mujica is scheduled to travel to China in 2012.
Economic relations between China and Uruguay have experienced a sustained expansion in the last few years, said Almagro pointing out that Chinese corporations have strong investments in the telecommunications and automobile sectors of Uruguay.
Bilateral trade in 2010 reached a record 2.629 billion U.S. dollars, up 69.3% over the previous year. In the first quarter of 2011, bilateral trade soared to 530 million USD, up 46.7% over the same period a year ago.
China in the last five years has become Uruguay's second largest trading partner behind neighbouring Brazil. However Almagro said Uruguay is interested in boosting exports with higher added value.
We must find the best way to boost trade but of quality goods, not only commodities. There have been software exports to China and it is something that can be boosted with the right promotion” said Almagro.
The Uruguayan official said China has shown great interest in investing in infrastructure projects such as port facilities, shipping, railways and communications. Uruguay has also advanced in supplying China with agro-business technology.
Finally Almagro revealed that Uruguay will support an initiative to have Mercosur and China reach a trade agreement.
They are complementary economies. It has not been planned yet, none of the countries in Mercosur have taken the initiative, but it is something we must consider for the future. China is a leading trade and investment partner of all Mercosur members he said.
I’m convinced it would be something most important for both sides and even if it demands very complex negotiation, it has good possibilities of going ahead” concluded the Uruguayan minister, who is a close advisor of President Mujica. Almagro left Beijing to join the electoral campaign of Mujica in 2009.