Turkish foreign minister arrives in Uruguay on Saturday to conduct FTA negotiations

the Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, Turkish Foreign Ministerwill arrive in Uruguay this Saturday in the midst of advanced negotiations between the two countries for progress in a free trade agreement (FTA).

While hoping to finalize the joint feasibility study with China soon, the government of Luis Lacalle Pou has launched a search for other trade agreements and has found in the Eurasian country an attractive market with which to deepen its relations.

The signing of a possible FTA with Turkey was mentioned last December by President Luis Lacalle Pou in an interview with Telenoche. The President had talked about opening a “exploratory path” which, if completed, could lead to the formal opening of negotiations for the agreement between March and April this year.

the Foreign Minister Francisco Bustillo confirmed these same days that Uruguay had received from Turkey the terms of reference for a possible FTA, after Uruguay worked to explore new trade agreements and submitted a formal note to that effect. According to the Minister, the Mercosur partners are aware of the negotiations.

Çavuşoğlu’s visit, which according to diplomatic sources will begin on Saturday 23, was announced a few days ago in Parliament by Hugo Cayrús, who will be responsible for creating “from scratch” the Uruguayan Embassy in Turkey and whose authorization has just been approved by the Senate.

Apart from the presence of a consulate general in Istanbul, Uruguay currently lacks a permanent representation in this country, one of the most geopolitically strategic due to its central position between Europe, Asia and Africa.

The priority of this new head office will be to work on improving the access opportunities of products and services to the Turkish market. Last year, Uruguay exported 200 million US dollars in this direction, including free zones, being the 11th most important destination. From Turkey, meanwhile, imports have arrived for 74 million US dollars. There, one of the first objectives will be to establish an economic and commercial department.

Uruguayan sales to Turkey in recent years have been mainly live cattleeven if they have recently gained weight pulp exports, that this year has been the main export product. Sales of rice, soybeans, animal feed, wool, dairy products and pharmaceuticals also stand out.

Auto parts, iron or steel profiles, clothes, shoes, textiles, electric heaters, vehicle bodies, plastics, chemicals, washing machines and agricultural machinery arrive from the Eurasian country.

As explained by Cayrús, former Permanent Representative of Uruguay to the Organization of American States (OAS), there are several draft agreements being negotiated with Turkey: among them, one for the promotion and reciprocal protection of investments, and another for the elimination of double taxation in respect of income taxes and the prevention of tax expenditures.

Turkey has an area of ​​784 thousand square kilometers and a population of 85 million. It is the 20th largest economy in the world by nominal GDP and the 11th by GDP at purchasing power parity.. Their projects aim to be in the World Top 10 by 2023, when the first centenary of the proclamation of the Republic led by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk will be celebrated. Turkey is also a member of the Group of 20.

In August last year, Foreign Minister Bustillo visited Turkey and signed an agreement on cooperation and mutual assistance on customs matters, as well as two memorandums of understanding: one on political consultations and the other on collaboration between the diplomatic academies of the two countries. In November, the Bilateral Interparliamentary Friendship Group was created.

Turkey and Uruguay have an agreement in force since 1996 to abolish passport visas, one for friendship and cooperation since 2009 and another for economic, commercial and technical collaboration since the same year. In 2013, they signed another concerning air services. The first meeting of the Joint Economic Commission, which has been pending for 13 years, is expected to take place this year. At the private level, there is a desire to create a bilateral commission between the National Chamber of Commerce and Services and the two main representatives of the Turkish business sector.

The colony of Uruguayans living in Turkey is very small. According to the records of the Consulate General, there are only 38 people in Istanbul.

Erdogan’s past

At the parliamentary level, the nomination of Cayrús and the will of the government to open a permanent seat in Turkey were celebrated. “For Uruguay, it is one of the countries that determines the transparency of the livestock market”, said nationalist senator Sebastián Da Silva. “The fact that it is the primary destination for live cattle prevents producers from being held hostage by potential oligopolies in the meatpacking industry.” Da Silva said he had expectations for a possible FTA, although he admitted it would be a mid-term definition. The legislator also highlighted the importance of the Turkish steel industry in Uruguayan agriculture, through the import of tools and machinery.

Frente Amplio supporter José Carlos Mahía underlined how “difficult to explain” that Uruguay still did not have a permanent seat in such a globally geopolitically and economically important place, beyond historical differences and the country’s traditional position regarding the Armenian Genocide. “We understand that this is an issue that has played an important role, but it is a strategic decision that we support”, he claimed.

Mahía’s claim is based on historical support for the Armenian cause. Uruguay was among the first to recognize the genocide of nearly two million Armenians at the hands of the Young Turk regime in the last years of the Ottoman Empire.

Turkey does not deny these deaths, but emphasizes that it was never a premeditated plan, but explains them based on the disorders that occurred during the First World War.

Until today, Uruguay is one of the 22 countries in the world that qualify this event as genocide.

The emblematic date is April 24, 1915, when the Ottomans ordered the arrest of hundreds of Armenian leaders in Istanbul and launched a mass deportation of individuals of this ethnic group.

Nearly 20,000 descendants of Armenians reside in Uruguay, who were firmly opposed to a visit never materialized that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was going to make in Montevideo at the beginning of 2018, during the last government of Tabaré Vázquez, as part of a regional tour.

At that time, some details about the demands of the Turkish president aroused strong criticism within the executive branch. Among them, the Turkish government demanded the entry of a sniper corps for Erdoğan’s protection, with immunity under Uruguayan law for their action. The Minister of Tourism at the time, Liliam Kechichian, had raised her repudiation in the cabinet and had requested authorization not to be present during the visit of the Turkish president, who ultimately and for reasons never specified, is never came. He also did not go to Brazil and Venezuela, the other stops planned on the tour.

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