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Official: Uruguay to seek US, China free trade deals - Report

Dow Jones Newswires

Official:Uruguay To Seek US,China Free Trade Deals-Report

By Drew Benson

6 January 2006

The Uruguayan government plans to seek free trade agreements with the U.S. and China, Economy Minister Danilo Astori said in an interview published Thursday in a weekly Uruguayan magazine.

Free trade agreements "are the paths to reaching the Uruguayan left’s most important objective, which is to create more jobs for the people," Astori told Busqueda magazine.

"A free trade agreement with the United States not only boosts potential investment possibilities, it also can generate notable increases in the level of (job) activity," he added. Asked if the goal was to line up a free trade deal with the U.S. this year, Astori was quoted as saying "Yes, of course - as soon as possible."

"I would also like for Uruguay to sign a free trade treaty with China and establish a more fluid commercial relationship with that nation," Astori said.

It is not clear how reaching free trade accords with the U.S. and China would jive with Uruguay’s founding member status in South America’s leading trade bloc, Mercosur, which does not allow for outside bilateral deals.

Astori’s comments come after Uruguayan officials in November signed a revamped treaty with U.S. leaders that protects investments in the two nations. The Uruguayan congress approved the deal late last month, despite some resistance from far-left lawmakers. Uruguayan President Tabare Vazquez, who took office last year, leads a leftist coalition within which Astori is seen as more pragmatic and pro-market than some.

When asked by Busqueda if he preferred Argentina’s or Chile’s economic model, Astori said: "They are very different situations, but I have no doubt that I would stick with the Chilean model."

Chile’s leftist leaders have sought pro-market programs, reaching the continent’s first free trade agreement with the U.S. earlier this decade. Meanwhile, Argentina’s President Nestor Kircher intervenes in markets and has moved closer to Venezuela’s populist leader Hugo Chavez.