TBY talks to Raúl Fernando Sendic Rodriguez, Vice President of Uruguay, on using Uruguay's vast productive powers to supply new markets, leveraging its status as a hub to help UAE firms penetrate Latin America, and solidifying UAE-Uruguayan legal structures.

Raúl Fernando Sendic Rodriguez
Raúl Fernando Sendic Rodriguez was born in Paysandú, Uruguay in 1962. He served on the board of directors of ANCAP, the Uruguayan national petroleum monopoly, as vice-president in 2007 and as president from 2008-2013, with the exception of a stint in government from 2009-2010. During those years he served as the Minister of Industry, Energy, and Mining in the last period of the Frente Amplio government of President Tabaré Vázquez. He has been Vice President of Uruguay since 2015.

In which economic sectors of the UAE does the government of Uruguay see investment opportunities?

We are currently in the process of further integrating Uruguay into the international arena, taking advantage of the new opportunities that Mercosur brings with it. When it comes to the UAE, we see great opportunities in terms of strengthening commercial trade between both countries. Uruguay is a reliable producer of food and services, and we see a wealth of opportunities in the infrastructure industry. Uruguay currently needs to invest in maritime, road, and rail infrastructure in order to strengthen our position as a regional hub, especially because our country is one of the main entry points for the South American region. One of the top priorities of the government of Uruguay is to attract investment to support these developments.

Do you think the experience of the UAE as a hub for the Gulf can be of use to Uruguay's development model?

There are many similarities between both countries; for example, we have a similar geographic size and location in relation to our respective regions, and we both complement the wider economies around us. A strategic alliance between the UAE and Uruguay would be of mutual benefit for both countries, allowing us to use our respective hub status to access many new markets. For example, through the UAE, Argentinian companies would have access to a broader market of 2 billion people, including India. Similarly, UAE investors in Uruguay would enjoy access to key Latin American markets.

While Uruguay produces most of the food consumed by its 3 million people, the UAE is largely reliant on food imports. What role can Uruguay play in supplying food to the UAE?

There are 3 million people in Uruguay, but the total capacity of our food industry actually enables us to supply as many as 50 million people with food. We have specialized our food industry and produce a large range of high-quality goods. For example, in the meat industry we have a traceability system that enables us to trace the genetics and journey information from all livestock, from the field to the shop, through a QR code system. We have also developed one of the highest-quality rice and soya industries in the world. In this context, new technologies played and continue to play a very important role for Uruguay's food industry. We have already held talks with the Ministry of Economy of the UAE to exchange expertise on the strengths of both economies.

Uruguay and the UAE signed a double taxation agreement. What have been the main benefits of the agreement?

In order for the agreement to be fully operative and assess its importance and benefits, we first need to boost trade and investment between both countries. We are currently working on a system of promotion and protection of investments between both countries. We have already created a legal base that should be the basis for starting more concrete work on investments. This was the reason behind our recent visit to the UAE alongside several Uruguayan companies. We have plans to organize a visit for some of our chambers of commerce as well as another government visit for 2017. We believe that these visits will strengthen trade and collaboration between both countries.

How could Uruguay and the UAE further strengthen political and trade ties?

The next step would be a free trade agreement (FTA). Uruguay has been one of the main promoters of the FTA signed between Mercosur and the EU. We are getting closer by the day to signing this. Chile and Uruguay recently signed an FTA, and our country proposed a similar commercial agreement with China. This is going through a revision process at the moment. The signing of an FTA with the UAE would be a very positive, commercial step for both countries. As I said, Mercosur has set up a new phase of development in which it is trying to further open its economies to the world, which is the way to go in the future.