Uruguay is expecting to have more trade with China as the latter takes on a bigger economic role in South America, Uruguayan Foreign Minister Luis Almagro told China Daily in an exclusive interview.
Uruguay attaches importance to its relations with China, said Almagro, adding that both countries, whose economies are highly complementary, are interested in pushing forward cooperation.
Vice-President Xi Jinping met Almagro on Wednesday, pledging to consolidate mutual political trust and mutually beneficial cooperation in sectors such as infrastructure, industry and agriculture. "It conforms to the fundamental interests of the two states to further bolster friendly cooperation," Xi said, noting that this is a consensus between the two sides.
The minister, who served as ambassador to China from 2007-09, was on a four-day working visit to China that ended on Wednesday.
On Monday, Almagro participated in the First China Beijing International Fair for Trade in Services, introducing the development of the services sector in the South American country.
"Through such a platform, Uruguay seeks to promote the opening of China services trade and to increase Uruguay's software, logistics, audiovisual products and some other areas on which the bilateral trade can be increased," said the minister.
In 2011, China-Uruguay trade reached $3.4 billion, 20 times more than it was in 1988, when the two countries established diplomatic ties.
China in the last five years has been Uruguay's second- largest trading partner behind neighboring Brazil.
Economic cooperation with China has facilitated Uruguay's exports and economic development, the minister said. "But such cooperation hasn't been dynamic enough. Now we have to complement it with a new quality of economic relations.
"We hope to attract more Chinese investors to Uruguay in many fields, such as telecommunications and infrastructure, and we hope China will import more South American products with higher added value," he said.
According to Almagro, China and Uruguay are currently discussing several new cooperative agreements to explore the "huge potential of economic ties". He also called for more involvement by the Chinese banking system in the cooperation.
"Uruguay is able to provide many advantages for Chinese investors, including a safe and reliable environment, an open economy, a large consumer market and a comprehensive and equal legal framework for investors," he said.
Despite the limited population of Uruguay (about 3.3 million people), it can lead China to the huge Southern Common Market, the so-called Mercosur, including Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay, said Chen Yuanting, a Latin American studies expert with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
China is a key investor in the Uruguayan auto industry and infrastructure projects, and is the largest buyer of Uruguay's wood, soy and cellulose.
According to the Uruguay-based MercoPress news agency, China has shown great interest in investing in projects such as port facilities, shipping, railways and communications.