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Montevideo, March 23rd 2023 - 07:53 UTC



Uruguayan FM hopes other Mercosur countries will join Chinese FTA talks

Monday, July 25th 2022 - 23:30 UTC
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Bustillo longed for the FTA to be finalized during the current administration of President Luis Lacalle Pou, despite negotiations started during the presidency of Tabaré Vazquez (2015-2020) Bustillo longed for the FTA to be finalized during the current administration of President Luis Lacalle Pou, despite negotiations started during the presidency of Tabaré Vazquez (2015-2020)

After meeting Monday with members of a Chinese delegation who are in Montevideo since Saturday, Uruguayan Foreign Minister Francisco Bustillo said he hoped the other members of Mercosur would soon join the Free Trade Agreement negotiations because the Asian giant was “open to cooperation both with Mercosur and with the particular member country.”

“We hope and augur that at some point the rest of the Mercosur member-partner countries will join in these negotiations,” Bustillo said after the meeting at the Executive Tower.

A delegation from the Chinese Foreign Ministry arrived in Montevideo Saturday as part of a South American tour, which had been postponed due to COVID-19 restrictions. They were welcomed Monday by Bustillo, alongside Economy Minister Azucena Arbeleche and Presidential Secretary Álvaro Delgado.

Read also: First Mercosur test for Uruguay´s free trade agreement negotiations with China

The visiting delegates met first only with Bustillo to discuss bilateral and international issues. They made it clear the purpose of the visit was not the planned FTA but the Foreign Ministry admitted the issue was on the table.

“Our objective is to carry out the main consensuses reached between the presidents of both countries and the relevant fruits of the telephone conversation between the foreign ministers of both parties to strengthen mutual political trust, contributing to the cooperation of friendship in all areas”, said Cai Wei, general director for Latin America and the Caribbean of China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

“Through this visit, we have perceived the firm will of the Uruguayan community to strengthen relations with China. Next year will coincide with the thirty-fifth anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries. We are convinced that with the efforts of both countries, the strategic partnership between China and Uruguay will surely reach a better tomorrow,” he added.

“China, as a strong supporter of free trade, is willing to negotiate and sign FTAs with all interested countries, upholding the global free trade system,” he also pointed out.

“The Chinese side is open to cooperation with both Mercosur as a whole and the particular member country. We would like to further deepen mutually beneficial cooperation in many ways, including an FTA on the premise of non-interference in Mercosur's internal affairs,” he went on.

“Like Uruguay, Brazil and Argentina are also good friends of China.” He did not mention Paraguay, the other Mercosur member that has deepened its commercial ties with Taiwan, which Beijing regards as a rogue Chinese province.

Read also: Taiwanese business team rounds up exploration mission to Paraguay

“We hope that Mercosur parties can negotiate amicably with each other in order to create a better environment for Sino-Uruguayan free trade cooperation,” he concluded.

Bustillo acknowledged that “we are starting to work on a timetable to move forward definitively and conclude the free trade agreement.”

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Economy, and all the sectoral ministries have been working on the issue. A very good working team was formed and this working team, with its chief negotiator, has already made the first contact this morning with their counterpart at the Chinese Ministry of Commerce to set a schedule to move forward in this sense,” he added.

Bustillo also stressed Argentine President Alberto Fernández had already expressed his country's interest in joining the negotiations and that Brazil had encouraged the work being carried out by Uruguay.

The minister also desired the FTA would be finalized during the current administration of President Luis Lacalle Pou. However, Uruguay and China showed the intention on signing a trade agreement during the past administration of former President Tabaré Vazquez (2015-2020).

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