Uruguayan ambassador eyes greater dialogue with China
Published: Jun 20, 2024 02:01 AM
Fernando Lugris, Uruguayan Ambassador to China Photo: Courtesy of Tsinghua University

Fernando Lugris, Uruguayan Ambassador to China Photo: Courtesy of Tsinghua University

Fernando Lugris, Uruguayan Ambassador to China, said that Uruguay will strive to revitalize and rejuvenate the dialogue with China as a top priority when it takes over the presidency of the Southern Common Market (Mercosur) in July. In an interview with the Global Times on Tuesday, he stressed that China is a reliable and healthy trade partner for his country.

Lugris was taking part in a session at Tsinghua University in Beijing to discuss China's investment in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) countries. The session attracted over 30 diplomatic envoys and representatives from 17 LAC countries.

Uruguay will take over the presidency of Mercosur in July, and Uruguayan Foreign Minister Omar Paganini said last December that the country wants the Southern Common Market to advance a trade agreement with China or facilitate a bilateral agreement that could serve all of South America. After Uruguay takes on the rotating presidency in the second half of this year, Uruguay is expected to actively lead other members of Mercosur in advancing a free trade agreement with China.

Lugris told the Global Times that "our president and foreign minister have stated clearly that one of the top priorities for our presidency will be to try to revitalize and rejuvenate the dialogue between Mercosur and China. This is a very meaningful dialogue, because China is the number one trading partner of the totality of the Mercosur countries. And we would like to see more conversations between the group and China in the near future."

Photo: Hu Yuwei/GT

The 4th Latin-American, Caribbean ambassadors convention is held at Tsinghua University. Photo: Hu Yuwei/GT

The economic and trade cooperation between China and Uruguay has developed rapidly. As of the end of 2023, China has been Uruguay's largest trading partner and export market for 11 consecutive years.

Lugris is hopeful for progress and the early realization of a bilateral free trade agreement. He told the Global Times that Uruguay is at this moment preparing a joint commission on trade and economic affairs between Uruguay and China.

"Hopefully, since we're going to have elections at the end of the year, we are going to be able to move things for a new administration in Uruguay to be able to continue with the work that the previous two administrations have done in a very frank, honest, but also meaningful dialogue with China," he said.

The ambassador expressed Uruguay's strong confidence in trade cooperation with China. "We are very thankful for this healthy trade that we have with China. We defend more trade with China, not only in goods, but also in services. And that's why we are so committed to continue to collaborate with China. Because we consider that our trade with China is very healthy and it benefits the sustainable development of our country, it's a win-win scenario for both of us," said the envoy.

"We are celebrating the 10th anniversary of the China-CELAC Forum, and we are in a perfect moment to explore new ways of cooperation that could really boost our relationship in the future. Trade has always been a central pillar in our communication and our dialogue. Some of our countries already have free trade agreements with China. The list of countries with free trade agreements with China is expanding," Lugris noted.

Lugris highlighted China's pivotal role in the sustainable development of the LAC region, and he called for increased high-quality Chinese investment in sectors like science, technology, and innovation.

Cai Wei, director general of the Department of Latin American and Caribbean Affairs of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, emphasized the importance of openness and cooperation in China-LAC relations at the event. He highlighted that China's investment and development initiatives in the LAC region are driven by the principles of equality, mutual benefit, and cultural inclusivity. He also said he looks forward to continued openness and collaboration, rejection of protectionism, and a shared global economic recovery.

Li Luming, president of Tsinghua University, highlighted the significant progress in China-LAC cooperation over the past decade. He noted the shift in Chinese investments toward "new infrastructure" industries such as renewable energy and high-end manufacturing, reflecting a shared commitment to quality and sustainable development.

He also emphasized Tsinghua's dedication to expanding cooperation with Latin American and Caribbean partners and holds positive expectations for the future.