Uruguay’s Trade Negotiations at a Glance: Uruguay’s Trade Negotiations and a Review of Current Multilateral Trade Rules The Future of the System


Gustavo Vanerio
Universidad de la República, UdelaR

Palabras clave:

Trade Negotiations, Uruguay, Trade Rules



By Craig Thorn

My friend

The recent past has been a difficult period for the international trading system. The World Trade Organization is in disarray. Negotiations have stalled, and the dispute settlement system has almost ceased to function. Mercosur and the EU concluded an historic trade agreement, but the slowness of European institutions to ratify that agreement has put entry into force in doubt. Countries around the world seem less interested than they were in the past in negotiating new trade deals.

Nevertheless, officials responsible for trade policy around the world are approaching their work with renewed optimism. This is due in part to a new administration in the United States, one that promises to reject the previous administration’s unilateralism and to repair the damage that that policy did to international institutions.

The author of this book undoubtedly understands that there is a sound basis for optimism. One of the most important lessons of the book is that the history of trade policy involves a series of ups and downs, of disappointments and significant, hard-won achievements. The author provides a valuable historical record of ups and downs in recent decades, told from a Uruguayan point of view. As a participant in some of the events recounted in the book, I can vouch for its accuracy.

It is fitting that the book is written by a Uruguayan. As the author explains, Uruguay has played an outsized role in the multilateral trading system since its inception. This is due in part to the talented Uruguayan officials, such as Ambassador Julio Lacarte Muró (see paragraph 24), who devoted their careers to building the system. It is also due to countless other Uruguayan officials who worked diligently over many years within that system to advance Uruguay’s interests. It is not surprising that the round of trade negotiations that resulted in the formation of the World Trade Organization was called the Uruguay Round.

The book illuminates some of the weaknesses and shortcomings of current trade rules, such as the failure of procedures governing the renegotiation of tariff concessions to protect the interests of low-volume traders (see paragraph 60). But it provides many examples that illustrate how participation and constant engagement can yield concrete results, despite the system’s imperfections. The best illustration of the principle of participation is the comprehensive history of Uruguay’s successful efforts to increase access for Uruguayan beef exports to markets in Europe and around the world.

I believe the current political circumstances provide an opportunity for improving trade rules and strengthening the trading system. However, whether or not that proves to be true, active participation will remain the key to securing the benefits the system has to offer.


julio 30, 2021