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Uruguay Min rejects talk of US free trade deal - Report

Dow Jones Newswires

Uruguay Min Rejects Talk Of US Free Trade Deal -Report

By Drew Benson

6 January 2006

BUENOS AIRES -(Dow Jones)- Uruguay’s Foreign Minister Reinaldo Gargano on Friday rejected an assertion made by Economy Minister Daniel Astori that the small South American nation is seeking a free trade deal with the U.S., according to Argentine media reports.

Astori said in an interview published Thursday in Uruguayan weekly magazine Busqueda that the Uruguayan government plans to seek free trade agreements with the U.S. and China, moves that some worry could undermine the region’s top trade bloc, Mercosur. Mercosur membership does not allow for outside bilateral treaties.

Astori, considered a more pragmatic, pro-market member of Uruguayan President Tabare Vazquez’s leftist coalition government, said that free trade would bring more investment leading to more jobs. Free trade deals, "are the paths to reaching the Uruguayan left’s most important objective, which is to create more jobs for the people," Astori told the magazine.

But Gargano, a further left-leaning rival of Astori’s within the Vazquez coalition, flatly rejected any talk of a U.S. deal in an interview with Argentina’s Continental radio station, the Associated Press’ Spanish language service in Buenos Aires reported.

"There is no government initiative aimed at realizing a free trade accord with the United States," Gargano said. "That doesn’t mean to say that we are not talking about trade issues with all the nations of the world, with China, with India, with South Africa and the rest," he added.

Concerning Astori’s comments, Gargano said his fellow minister "does not appear to be well informed or didn’t take into account the obligation established by decision 32, adopted by Mercosur in 2000." The decision requires Mercosur nations to work as a bloc when drawing up free trade agreements with outside nations.