Delivered by Ambassador Michael Punke
U.S. Permanent Representative to the WTO
April 25, 2012
Thank you, Chair.
The United States is pleased to welcome Uruguay’s delegation, led by Ambassador Álvaro Ons, together with the rest of his team from Montevideo and Geneva. Ambassador, we greatly appreciate your government’s report for this meeting, which we found to be useful in learning more about Uruguay’s accomplishments and the challenges it has faced during the time period of this review. As always, we are grateful to the Secretariat for its excellent and comprehensive report on Uruguay’s trade and economic environment, and we greatly appreciate the participation of Ambassador Francisco Lima, of El Salvador, as our discussant.
We begin our remarks today by commending Uruguay’s longstanding contribution to this institution, a contribution that dates back to the early days of the GATT system and is evident in many ways, including the positive role Uruguay has played in the DDA and its hosting of the conference that launched the Uruguay Round in 1986.
The United States’ trade relationship with Uruguay is strong, positive, and growing. In 2006, the United States and Uruguay signed a bilateral investment treaty and in 2007 we signed a Trade and Investment Framework Agreement. In 2008, we negotiated protocols on Trade Facilitation and Trade and the Environment. These agreements attest to the United States’ commitment to this important relationship, and we look forward to exploring potential areas of mutual interest under these protocols. We also hope to identify additional areas where we can continue to deepen this relationship. We will pursue these objectives by working through the U.S.-Uruguay Trade and Investment Council, where we will seek to identify specific measures to strengthen bilateral ties and to coordinate efforts to support Uruguay’s economic reforms.
Our expanding trade relationship can be demonstrated by looking at Uruguay’s trade flows. We note the Secretariat’s observation that one of the most salient features of Uruguay’s trade regime during the period covered by this review is the diversification of export destinations for Uruguayan goods, with an increased focus on countries outside MERCOSUR. In 2011, the United States’ two-way goods trade with Uruguay stood at $1.5 billion. Uruguay’s exports to the United States are growing impressively, both overall and in key product areas such as beef, prepared meat, dairy, honey, and hides and skins. Uruguay’s exports to the United States in 2011 were up more than 23 percent over 2010 levels. Uruguay’s imports from the United States also have been increasing over the past several years. In fact, in 2011 Uruguay’s imports from the United States increased nearly 29 percent over 2010 levels, signaling solid economic growth and greater financial stability.
The economic data clearly shows that Uruguay is making impressive headway with its economic recovery in the wake of the international economic crisis. Real GDP grew by a robust 6.2 percent between 2005 and 2010 and per capita GDP doubled. At the same time, there was a significant drop in the poverty and unemployment rates. As noted in the Secretariat’s report, Uruguay has made substantial progress in fiscal consolidation and has significantly reduced and restructured its public debt. In addition, comprehensive tax reform by the Uruguayan government promises to make tax administration more efficient and reduce tax evasion. Uruguay’s strong economic performance along with macroeconomic stability and a supportive legal framework all contributed to a very favourable investment climate, as evidenced by increased foreign investment flows to Uruguay during the period from 2005 to 2011. The United States would like to acknowledge these achievements and urge the government of Uruguay to stay the course with an economic reform program that has already shown formidable growth and stability.
We welcomed the update on Uruguay’s reform efforts that was provided in the Government of Uruguay’s report, especially in light of the policy review being undertaken in your government to ensure that all of Uruguay’s trade and economic policies are both supportive of development and compatible with its international commitments. There are a few areas, however, where we would appreciate additional information during the course of this review.
We note that Uruguay does not permit the importation of U.S. beef and chicken meat into Uruguay due to the stated belief that these products are vectors for the transmission of BSE and Avian Influenza, respectively. Given the international guidelines set by the World Organization of Animal Health (OIE), we would strongly urge Uruguay to consider other measures to address its concerns.
We note that Uruguay is not a party to the WTO Agreement on Government Procurement, nor is it an observer to the WTO Committee on Government Procurement. In light of the revision of the Government Procurement Agreement (GPA) that was adopted last month, which will facilitate accession to the GPA, and the benefits that could accrue to Uruguay from GPA membership, we would urge Uruguay to consider acceding to the WTO GPA.
We commend Uruguay for its efforts to streamline and computerize customs formalities, which have formed part of its strategy of international integration and improved conditions for competitiveness. We encourage Uruguay to continue with such efforts as well as additional reform in the areas noted by the Secretariat, including elimination of the 2 percent consular fee for imports.
In addition to these issues, we submitted written questions on topics such as the notification of technical standards and SPS measures, export promotion measures, and the protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights. We thank Uruguay for its replies, which we look forward to reviewing.
In closing, Ambassador, the United States again wants to acknowledge Uruguay’s important and positive contributions to this institution. We look forward to our continued close cooperation with Uruguay in the future, both bilaterally and in the WTO. We also look forward to continued work with Uruguay and other WTO Members to continue to explore ways to strengthen the global economy and support the rules-based multilateral trading system embodied by the WTO.