Uruguay has stepped up its criticism of Mercosur during a summit of South America's customs council, saying internal trade barriers are hurting its exports to Argentina while the bloc's regulations prevent it from signing a free-trade agreement with China.
During the first day of the LXII Ordinary Meeting of the Mercosur Common Market Council in the Argentine city of Puerto Iguazú, Uruguay's Foreign Minister Francisco Bustillo complained about the lack of progress in Mercosur's negotiations with the European Union, China and Singapore, among others.
"As we have repeatedly said, for Uruguay it is always better to be accompanied at any negotiating table by Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay," Bustillo said Monday in a speech posted on Twitter, referring to the other founding members of Mercosur. "The only thing we are not going to allow ourselves is immobility."
Bustillo was later quoted by El País as saying that Uruguay might at some point have to consider changing its status as a founding member of Mercosur to that of an associate member, which would give it more flexibility to negotiate its own bilateral trade deals.
Uruguay's future in Mercosur is likely to be one of the topics to be discussed by its president, Luis Lacalle Pou, on Tuesday, when he meets with his counterparts from Brazil, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva; Argentina, Alberto Fernández; and Paraguay, Mario Abdo Benítez.
The summit of the South American trade bloc is taking place amid heightened domestic tensions exacerbated by a growing economic crisis in Argentina.
by Martha Viotti Beck & María Eloisa Capurro, Bloomberg