On Friday October 25, 2013, Paraguayan President Horacio Cartes conducted his first official visit to Uruguay. In the early days of Mr. Cartes’ presidential term, he has been highly engaged, pragmatic, and has worked to promote the international investment potential of Paraguay unlike any other president in the past 24 years.
As Asunción remains outside of the MERCOSUR trade block, Mr. Cartes’ numerous official visits have shown a highly positive, proactive and a vibrant foreign policy strategy that sooner or later will have a direct impact on improving Paraguay’s national image and attracting strategic investment to the Guaraní-speaking country.
In their official meeting, presidents Jose Mujica and Horacio Cartes agreed to further strengthen bilateral ties while asserting their respective governments’ willingness to work intensely in the areas of trade, and industrial and cultural cooperation, all within the context of mutual interests, reciprocity and friendship.
Both leaders stressed the excellent relations between these two countries, which have been built on common ideas, regional economic development, integration of transportation logistics, and above all: the aspiration of integrating both nations into a globalized economy.
As President Cartes concluded his official visit, he joined his Uruguayan counterpart to give a joint press statement encompassing all areas of mutual cooperation in economic development, politics, commerce, education and culture. President Mujica put particular emphasis on the traditional and historical ties existing between both countries, ties that date back to 1820 when the father of Uruguayan nationhood, Jose Gervasio Artigas, was hosted by Paraguay’s dictator Dr. Gaspar Rodriguez de Francia in Asunción. Mr. Mujica reiterated his interest in developing national infrastructure and his desire to work with Asunción in order to iron out their differences and better defend their mutual interests in the region and beyond.
The creation of new workplaces as a source of eradicating poverty and reducing unemployment, as well as boosting respect for human rights, were additional items of discussion between the two leaders.
In 2008, Asunción signed a bilateral agreement on commercial air transportation with Montevideo, which guaranteed open skies for airline companies operating in both countries. Starting next year, both parties will renew this agreement and Montevideo will host an airline conducting commercial and cargo flights to Asunción.
Social development and a renewal of the mixed committee on the war against drugs also played into their discussions. The committee is expected to meet in the first quarter of 2014.
Commercial exchange continues to be an important item on the bilateral agenda, as it is considered a great source of employment and industrialization for both national economies. In this context, President Cartes was in agreement with President Mujica on establishing a bilateral commercial and industrial commission that would address sustainable and a balanced growth in bilateral trade.
According to President Cartes: “Paraguay considers Uruguay a strategic ally in relation to logistics, fluvial transportation, and increasing the presence of both nations’ products in international markets. The Uruguayan government has allowed the development of two free-trade deposit zones in Montevideo and Nueva Palmira in order to attract a higher circulation of goods coming from Paraguay.” The port of Montevideo is also expected to expand, and will soon be equipped with new unloading docks, due in large part to growing demand for shipments originating from Paraguay.
In addition, the foreign ministers of Paraguay and Uruguay will conduct a series of meetings in order to facilitate the implementation of a dynamic bilateral agenda focused on commerce, culture, education and logistical infrastructure. It is in this context that the Paraguay–Parana intergovernmental committee was established, which will serve as a technical body for addressing logistical and transportation issues involving shipments along the Parana River originating in Paraguay. It will also expand port infrastructure in Montevideo by building a deep-water port with access to the Atlantic.
This latest bilateral meeting will surely bring these two countries closer together. It has also opened the door for President Pepe Mujica to visit Asunción for the fourth time since becoming president in 2010.
Peter Tase is a contributor to Geopoliticalmonitor.com