Earl Anthony Wayne, Assistant
Secretary in the Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs,
and Uruguayan Ambassador to the US Hugo Fernandez Faingold
held a press conference Tuesday (May 11) to announce that
negotiations would begin on a Bilateral Investment Treaty
between the United States and Uruguay.
Secretary Wayne and Ambassador Fernandez
Faingold, accompanied by Susan Cronin of the Office of US
Trade Representative, conducted the press conference from
Washington DC. Members of the Uruguayan media were invited
to cover the event via a digital video conference at the
U.S. Embassy. Ambassador Martin J. Silverstein presided
over the meeting in Uruguay.
Secretary Wayne said work on this agreement
actually began several years ago. The decision to negotiate
the BIT is the result of the U.S.-Uruguay Joint Commission
on Commerce and Investment. US Trade Representative Robert
Zoellick and Uruguay’s Minister of Foreign Relations
Didier Opertti announced the negotiations after the ministerial
summit of the Foreign Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA)
held in Miami in November 2003.
“The aim is to lift the level of prosperity
for both countries, to increase jobs and find an area in
which we can work together,” the secretary said, adding
that he hopes the negotiations on the BIT will be complete
by the end of August.
Ambassador Fernandez Faingold said, “In
Uruguay there are a lot of people without work or looking
for work. We know that improving conditions for exportation,
in this case to the United States, will directly affect
our ability to overcome the economic crisis in Uruguay.
And that is exactly what we have done.”
Ambassador Fernandez Faingold said initiation
of BIT negotiations will lead to an increase in Uruguayan
exports, which will consequently increase employment and
stimulate the economy.
Ambassador Silverstein told the reporters
this is a win-win situation for both countries.
“This is a good day because this treaty
indicates a growth in our bilateral relations," Ambassador
Silverstein said. "I'm not an economist but the benefits
of this agreement are not difficult to understand. For Uruguay
it means more investments. For the United States it means
more secure investments. But the significance for Uruguay
is more jobs and more opportunities for work. I believe
the impact will be immediate."
The United States has BITs in place with
36 other countries but has not negotiated a new one in five
years. The decision to involve Uruguay in the first new
negotiations since then, shows the importance the US places
on its relationship with Uruguay.
The joint commission also discussed bilateral
issues including sanitary and phytosanitary health issues
(animal and plant health) and analyzed the possibility of
a purchasing agreement and an Open Sky Agreement between
the two governments. Both parties agreed the Joint Commission
for 2004 will focus on BIT negotiations and on other ways
to generate economic growth in both countries.
The Joint Commission was created after the
meeting between Uruguay’s President Jorge Batlle and
President Bush in February 2002. In April 2002 the Joint
Commission proposed an ambitious plan to strengthen commercial
relations in the areas of plant and animal health, intellectual
property rights and telecommunications.
After the press conference Ambassador Silverstein
fielded questions from reporters on the effect of Uruguay’s
upcoming elections on negotiations, if the negotiations
would be a forerunner to a bilateral free trade agreement
between the two countries, and how this treaty would differ
from previous treaties