Weekly Report - 09 September 2021 (WR-21-36)

Uruguay risks Mercosur rift over China

Uruguay will proceed with plans to negotiate a free trade agreement (FTA) with China. President Luis Alberto Lacalle Pou informed the leaders of all of the country’s principal political parties of his government’s intention on 7 September. It was not a bolt from the blue. Lacalle Pou’s spat with his Argentine peer Alberto Fernández at a Southern Common Market (Mercosur) virtual summit in March over the matter exposed the internal differences within the bloc. Lacalle Pou remarked at the time that Mercosur should not be a “burden” or a “corset in which our country cannot move”, prompting a cutting rejoinder from Fernández: “we don’t want to be a burden for anyone; if we are a burden, take another boat” [WR-21-13]. The two heads of state have met to try and ease tensions since then but fundamental differences remain.

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