MercoPress | Thursday, April 26, 2007
Uruguay/US trade and investment talks in Washington
Uruguay and United States resumed on Thursday trade and investment talks in Washington with the purpose of increasing bilateral exchanges. Uruguay is targeting an increase in its current 20.000 tons of beef quota, free of tariffs, and the opening of the US market for lamb and mutton.
The Trade and Investment Framework Agreement, TIFA, talks were initiated last January when US Deputy Trade representative John Veroneau visited Montevideo for the launching of the negotiations process.
TIFA was the alternative chosen to a free trade agreement offered by United States because of a deep division inside the left leaning Uruguayan government cabinet and ruling coalition which is split in its attitude towards the world’s “dominating power”.
Economy Minister Danilo Astori leads the pragmatic wing inside the cabinet while socialist Foreign Secretary Reinaldo Gargano the more fundamentalist approach that abhors from any contacts beyond formalities, with “imperial” United States.
However the Uruguayan delegation in Washington includes Minister Astori’s main advisor, economist Fernando Lorenzo and President Tabare Vazquez most trusted aide and cabinet chief Gonzalo Fernandez, plus the blessings from a former guerrilla leader and currently Agriculture minister, Jose Mujica, the man who most votes collected for the ruling coalition in October 2004.
President Vazquez, Ministers Astori and Mujica favor a free trade agreement with the US, but not only did they have to face internal dissent but also warnings from Mercosur senior partners (Argentina and Brazil), who recalled that all decisions in the group, particularly regarding trade with third parties, must be taken in consensus.
Last March when US President George Bush visited Uruguay, one of the several legs of his Latinamerican tour, he emphasized that Washington was willing to go as far as Uruguay wished in trade affairs, in merit to the country’s stability and long standing commitment to democracy.
The “pragmatic” wing of the President Vazquez administration has said all along that TIFA is the first step towards the final objective of a free trade agreement with the US.