Uruguayan Foreign Minister Rodolfo Nin Novoa confirmed Thursday that his country hopes to press ahead with negotiations for a free trade agreement (FTA) with China and would ask the Southern Common Market (Mercosur) to consider it.
"We are absolutely convinced and committed" that "if China wants the treaty, we will do it and the parliament will approve it," the minister said after a meeting in the Senate, where results of President Tabare Vazquez's official visit to China in October 2016 were discussed.
A major roadblock to the FTA is that Uruguay is a member of Mercosur, which is seeking its group FTA with China. Furthermore, other Mercosur members are not keen to have Chinese goods imported through Uruguay, dodging tariffs or customs requirements.
According to Nin Novoa, the position of Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay will be "key, depending on the time of the deal" reached with the Asian giant.
He also suggested that the negotiations between Uruguay and China could lead to a broader FTA with Mercosur.
"Until we have established the basis of the treaty and this has been accepted by China, we cannot ask the other Mercosur countries if they want to join us or not," said Nin Novoa.
Mercosur requires any member to get approval from others to sign an FTA outside the bloc.
During Vazquez's visit to Beijing in October, the governments of China and Uruguay announced that they would begin to study the feasibility of holding FTA negotiations.
China has been the main destination of Uruguayan exports since 2014.