17 and 19 May 2006

Concluding remarks by the Chairperson

See also:
> Press release: Further liberalization could help sustain a recent record of strong growth

1. This third Trade Policy Review of Uruguay has helped to paint a clearer picture of the evolution of trade and investment policies in Uruguay and of the country's integration and participation in the multilateral trading system. Our sincere gratitude goes to Ambassador AmorÝn, Ambassador Valles, Mr Sarachaga and the rest of the Uruguayan delegation whose participation has been highly valuable to the work of this Body. We would also like to thank the discussant, Ambassador Matus, for his interesting and learned contribution to our discussions, Mr Herreros, and the numerous Members that contributed to the success of this review.

2. Members expressed their satisfaction with the sound economic growth that Uruguay has experienced since 2003, following a serious economic and financial crisis which it dealt with by adopting a macroeconomic adjustment programme and measures to strengthen the financial system. A number of participants observed that Uruguayan exports to markets outside the region had been a key to reactivating the economy, and spoke of the need to pursue the economic reforms in order to ensure sustainable growth.

3. Members praised Uruguay for its significant contribution to the construction and consolidation of the multilateral trading system, including its active participation in the Doha Development Agenda. They invited Uruguay to keep its notifications to the WTO up to date, notably in areas such as SPS and TBT. Emphasis was also placed on Uruguay's participation in MERCOSUR, and several participants raised questions as to the benefits of such participation. Uruguay replied that MERCOSUR was an essential component of its growth strategy, and that it would be seeking to deepen and expand that process. It was also essential to explore individually the possibility of concluding bilateral agreements with a trade component.

4. Members recognized the efforts made by Uruguay to modernize its trade regime, and welcomed the initiatives taken to facilitate trade. Among many other measures, Uruguay has adopted the WTO definition of customs value, has simplified its customs procedures, and has reduced its applied tariffs. Members commended Uruguay for resorting so rarely to trade defence measures. It was also pointed out that while Uruguay had bound its entire tariff universe, it could increase the predictability of its trade regime by narrowing the gap between bound and applied tariffs.

5. At the same time, Members expressed concern at certain measures that had been adopted in recent years, in particular the use of other charges on trade, and welcomed the announcement that such charges would be eliminated as of July 2007. Certain customs procedures were also questioned, as was the distinction made between imports and domestic products in applying certain internal taxes (VAT and the Specific Internal Tax - IMESI). With respect to the numerous questions regarding its tax regime, Uruguay replied that the regime was currently being revised, and it was thinking of eliminating exemptions and distortionary taxes. Members welcomed Uruguay's efforts to improve the protection of intellectual property rights as well as the ongoing process to adopt a new law on the defence of competition.

6. Stressing the importance of the services sector to the development of the Uruguayan economy and the liberalization which had taken place in that sector over the past few years, Members invited Uruguay to assume new commitments under the GATS that would include sectors in which it had thus far assumed few or no commitments, such as telecommunications and maritime transport. Uruguay responded that it was considering binding commitments in new areas, such as professional and distribution services.

7. In conclusion, I think that this Body sees the general direction of Uruguay's trade policy in a very positive light. Uruguay's commitment to the principles of multilateralism has helped to turn international trade into a catalyst for its economic growth. In order to stimulate and consolidate this growth, Members urged Uruguay to continue to liberalize its economy and diversify its trade relations, and to review a few individual aspects of its trade regime. I am certain that Uruguay will maintain its traditional commitment to the work of this Organization and that it will continue to play a positive role in the Doha Development Agenda, which could be of particular benefit to Uruguay if successful. I would like to close this meeting by once again thanking the Uruguayan delegation, the discussant, and the Members present for their constructive participation in this review.