U.S. Statement at the WTO Trade Policy Review of Uruguay

Statement by Ambassador Dennis Shea,
Deputy U.S. Trade Representative and U.S. Permanent Representative to the WTO
Geneva, June 27 and 29, 2018
– As prepared for delivery –

The United States is pleased to welcome Uruguay’s delegation, led by [Director General de Secretaria del Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores] Ambassador Carlos Amorin, together with the rest of his team from Montevideo and Geneva.  I would like to personally acknowledge the warm guidance of Ambassador Cancela during my early days here in Geneva.  We welcome the participation of Ambassador Diego Aulestia of Ecuador as our Discussant and look forward to insightful discussions during Uruguay’s Trade Policy Review.

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 (TIFA).  In 2008, we negotiated protocols on Trade Facilitation and Trade and the Environment.  These agreements demonstrate the mutual commitment to our bilateral trade and investment relationship.  We look forward to continuing to work together through the U.S.-Uruguay Trade and Investment Council under the TIFA to identify additional areas where we can deepen our bilateral trade relationship and strengthen bilateral ties.

Our expanding bilateral trade relationship is reflected in our bilateral trade flows.  In 2017, the United States’ two-way goods trade with Uruguay stood at $2.2 billion, up 25 percent from 2012 levels.  Uruguay’s exports to the United States are growing impressively, both overall and in key product areas such as beef, prepared meat and fish, art and antiques, and wood and wood products.

We note that during the period covered by this review, Uruguay achieved greater diversification of exports in terms of both products and markets, with an increased focus on markets outside MERCOSUR.  Uruguay enjoyed a healthy average annual increase in real GDP growth of about 3 percent during the period covered by the review.  Per capita GDP is nearly US$17,000, one of the highest in Latin America, with relatively equitable distribution of income.  In addition, Uruguay cut the poverty rate by nearly one-half, from 18.5 percent in 2010 to 9.4 percent in 2016.  The United States applauds these notable achievements.

With regard to investment, however, Uruguay’s performance was not quite as favorable, as foreign direct investment flows fluctuated significantly during the period under review.  There was significant inward investment between 2012 and 2014, followed by major capital outflows in 2015 and 2016.  U.S. foreign direct investment (stock basis) in Uruguay remained virtually unchanged from 2012 to 2016 (latest data available) at $US 1.5 billion.  The United States encourages Uruguay to continue to maintain an open trade and investment regime, which, along with Uruguay’s political and economic stability and educated workforce, should provide an attractive climate for increased foreign investment in the future.

We commend Uruguay for its support for, and ratification of, the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement.  We note that during the period under review, Uruguay introduced a number of measures to facilitate trade, including:  the electronic payment of duties and taxes, a digital single customs document, the foreign trade single window, automated control of port access to the Port of Montevideo, the sea and air electronic manifest, and the Authorized Economic Operator program.  These are all very welcome steps to facilitate trade.

At the same time, however, we must mention two areas of concern.  Uruguay increased the consular fee on imports from two to five percent effective on January 1, 2017.  As Uruguay is aware, during its 2012 Trade Policy Review, the United States raised concerns about the two percent consular fee on imports.  That this fee has now been increased to five percent only heightens our concerns.  In addition, Uruguay has imposed progressively stricter limits on the number of allowable duty-free express shipments valued at $200 or less per person, per year.  We encourage Uruguay to eliminate these trade-restrictive measures.

In addition to these issues, we submitted written questions on topics such as food labeling regulations, 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 are grateful to have Uruguay as a highly engaged and good-humored next-door neighbor in most of our meetings here at the WTO. We look forward to our continued close cooperation with Uruguay in the future, both bilaterally and in the WTO.