Uruguay, U.S. to begin Bilateral Investment Treaty negotiations

U.S. officials in Washington DC announce plans to Uruguayan journalists in a digital video conference.

May 11, 2004


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

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