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Cablegate: Uruguay: Vice President-Elect Says Bilateral Relationship a Top Priority

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R 231339Z FEB 10
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INFO MERCOSUR COLLECTIVE

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SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 2020/02/23
TAGS: PGOV PREL ETRD EINV UY
SUBJECT: Uruguay: Vice President-elect says Bilateral Relationship a Top Priority

CLASSIFIED BY: David Nelson, Ambassador, State, Exec REASON: 1.4(B), (D)

1. (C) Ambassador Nelson called on Uruguayan Vice President-elect Danilo Astori February 22. In addition to the active role an Uruguayan vice president is expected to play as president of Uruguay's Senate, Astori has been tapped by President-elect Jose Mujica to manage Uruguay's economic policy. Perhaps as a consequence, many of the priorities he described to the ambassador were related to Uruguay's economic development. At the top of Astori's list, however, was the goal of building upon the existing solid bilateral relationship, an end Astori indicated he would pursue with enthusiasm.

Trade and Investment
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2. (SBU) Astori stressed Uruguay's need for foreign investment, telling the ambassador he would do what it takes (including offering incentives such as tax holidays) to attract it. Astori explained that investment in Uruguay has risen over recent years as a percentage of GDP, from 12 percent when the first Frente Amplio (FA) coalition government took the reins in 2005, to 20 percent today. His goal is to see that figure grow to 25 percent during the next five years, Astori said. Astori's other priorities for the year fell into the legislative realm: he wants to approve funding for the construction of dwellings for underprivileged Uruguayans, win approval of key government reform measures, and guide to a successful finish Uruguay's once-every-five-years budget process, which occurs in 2010.

3. (SBU) Describing our Bilateral Investment Treaty and our bilateral Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) as excellent mechanisms, Astori asked the ambassador what our two countries could do to increase their utility. They agreed to establish a joint Embassy-Ministry of Economy team during the coming weeks to review progress with the TIFA and set common goals moving forward.

Ministry of the Presidency
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4. (SBU) President-elect Mujica has announced a decision to create a Ministry of the Presidency, which has been characterized in the local press as a ""super ministry."" Responding to a question from the ambassador about the ministry's scope, Astori described it less grandly, saying it will be an entity that directly supports the president and that will be composed of agencies and bodies orphaned elsewhere in the bureaucracy (e.g. it will absorb the offices of prosecutors, who now labor under the aegis of the Ministry of Education).

Comment
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5. (SBU) Astori is one of the better-known members of the incoming Mujica administration, and he has long espoused good relations with the U.S. Still, it has been encouraging to see that, to an individual, the high-level members of the incoming Mujica administration with whom the ambassador has spoken have taken pains to indicate their desire for good relations with the U.S.
Nelson

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