Keynote Speech of Fernando Lugris at Plenary Session of 2017 Xi'an Silk Road Business Summit
8 Sep 2017



Fernando Lugris

 Ambassador of the Oriental Republic of Uruguay  


Keynote Speech


Plenary Session: Exchange on the Economic and Trade Development

2017 Xi'an Silk Road Business Summit


8 September 2017


Dear Mr. Rockwell

Dear Ambassadors

Dear co-panelists and guests,


I am truly honored to join you at this plenary session of the 2017 Xi’an Silk Road Business Summit. I wish to convey my deepest gratitude to the organizers for allowing me to present the business environment of my country at this highly remarkable forum.


It is my aim that, after this brief presentation, you will have a more thorough understanding of why Uruguay can play a relevant part in the unfolding of the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, positioning itself as a stable and attractive platform from which to do business in the whole of South America.


Let me begin by referring to a simple historical fact: Uruguay was born into independent life as a free trading port. Our capital city, Montevideo, was and is home to a richly endowed natural port, which served as the point of entry and exit of merchandise and ideas for its neighboring region. Uruguay’s independence helped to secure this privileged situation for decades to come.


As of today, this role has not only been preserved, but perfected. The port of Montevideo is now joined by other ports in the country, all of which enhance our connection to the productive heartlands of Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, and Paraguay. All these ports are under the free port regime, which guarantees that the merchandise which transits and undergoes modification in these ports are exempted from any sort of taxation. Free ports are accompanied by free airports under a similar regime, free trade zones, bonded customs warehouses, and industrial parks.


During his visit to China last year, my President confirmed President Xi Jinping Uruguay’s intention of joining One Belt One Road, in order to put all these instruments at the service of this initiative. We humbly believe that this contribution will certainly help strengthen the integration of the whole of the Latin America and the Caribbean to this strategy.


As a gateway to this region, Uruguay offers a solid track record in terms of political, economic, and social stability. Among our strengths, I would like to highlight the credibility and fairness of our institutions. In that regard, I will note that Uruguay ranks first in Latin America in Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index. Furthermore, Uruguay holds the first place in the region in the World Justice Project Rule of Law Index.


Economically speaking, Uruguay enjoys the highest GDP per capita and the most equal distribution of income in Latin America. Our economy has been growing uninterruptedly for the last 15 years, a feat that in Latin America and the Caribbean has only been matched by two other countries. Furthermore, Uruguay is the only MERCOSUR bloc member which has been awarded the investment grade by the three major ratings agencies.


In the last three years, Uruguay has also succeeded in coming at the top of the Social Inclusion index compiled by the Americas Quarterly. It is also recognized by the Institute for Economics and Peace as one of the most peaceful countries in our region.


These favorable conditions have already been recognized by foreign investors. That explains why, between 2005 and 2015, Uruguay was the second country in Latin America only after Chile when it came to FDI received as a measure of GDP; in that same period, Uruguay boasted the second largest proportion of profits reinvested in the country of all Latin American nations. Chinese companies such as COFCO in the agriculture and logistics sector; ZTE and Huawei in the IT area; and Lifan on the automotive one, have already identified Uruguay as a key, reliable partner, and set up large operations in the country.


Despite these achievements, Uruguay’s development agenda has not ceased to unfold. Certainly, by means of these efforts, my country will gain a much better standing from which to contribute to the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road.


That is why, in the year 2015, my Government launched a Strategic Plan for Infrastructure Investment, by which between 2015 and 2019, more than 12 billion USD will be invested to upgrade our electricity system; railways; highways; ports; as well as social infrastructure (schools, housing, hospitals, etc.).


I know that many of the Chinese companies present here have accumulated a wealth of experience in developing infrastructure both in China and abroad, and so I would like to invite them to consider their participation in the execution of this Plan.


Of the myriad opportunities that are part of it, I would like to call your attention to a project that my Government is in the process of launching. This is the Central Railway project, an ambitious program to reconstruct and maintain more than 300 kilometers of railway that connects the centre of the country with the port of Montevideo. The new railway will serve cargo movements (of forestry products, grains, fuel, containers, among others) as well as passengers. The bidding process for this project will start in September, and many Chinese companies have already shown their interest in it.


Besides infrastructure, Uruguay offers many opportunities for investing in its highly efficient agribusiness sector (such as meat and dairy processing); its abundant fisheries; and also hydrocarbons and other minerals exploration. These are all areas which the State Council of China is willing to encourage investment by Chinese companies abroad.


I am confident that Uruguay provides many interesting opportunities in these realms. The Embassy of Uruguay in China is more than pleased to facilitate cooperation between Uruguayan and Chinese counterparts, so that mutually beneficial projects may successfully come into fruition. Our resources are at your absolute disposal for the purpose of writing together a new chapter in the history of the Silk Road.


Thank you very much.