No Voy en Tren: Uruguay y las perspectivas de un TLC con Estados Unidos (2000-2010)

Not On Board:
Uruguay and the Prospects for a Free Trade Agreement with the United States, 2000-2010

By Roberto Porzecanski
Debate (Random House Mondadori), June 2010

This book offers an in-depth analysis of the political economy of Uruguay’s trade negotiations with the United States in the first decade of the twenty-first century. In the last ten years, two different Uruguayan presidents from opposite ends of the political spectrum –Jorge Batlle and Tabaré Vázquez- tried to sign a free trade agreement (FTA) with the United States. Despite U.S. willingness to go ahead, both fell short. However, despite the failure to negotiate an FTA, Uruguay and the United States took significant steps to increase bilateral trade and investment liberalization.

After failing to obtain an FTA, in 2003 President Batlle signed a bilateral investment treaty (BIT), which was the first treaty negotiated under the new U.S. model BIT. The ratification of the BIT was left for President Vázquez, who managed to secure Uruguayan parliamentary approval only after renegotiating the agreement with the United States. This was, by all measures, an unprecedented step on the part of the United States. After obtaining ratification of the BIT, President Vázquez also tried to get an FTA but, like President Batlle, fell short. However, in 2007 Uruguay and the United States signed a trade and investment framework agreement (TIFA) establishing a negotiating framework to move the trade liberalization agenda forward and to negotiate the building blocks of a potential FTA.

  • Why did two presidents from opposite ends of the political spectrum try to sign an FTA with the United States?
  • Why did they value access to the U.S. market more than the preservation of policy space?
  • What was the United States’ interest in negotiating an agreement with such a small country?
  • Why wasn’t an agreement reached?

GDAE Research Fellow Roberto Porzecanski answers these questions based on extensive analysis of economic and trade data, a thorough review of the press and the relevant academic literature, and, most importantly in-depth fieldwork consisting of more than 60 interviews with high-level government officials in the Batlle, Vázquez, and Bush administrations, as well as business and labor leaders, and academics.  He gives Spanish-speaking readers a remarkable behind-the-scenes look at the complicated politics of international trade negotiations.

Porzecanski launched the book on June 8, 2010 in Montevideo in a high profile event at the Ministry of External Relations.  The book received prominent media coverage, including an article in Busqueda, one of Uruguay’s leading weekly magazines.

Roberto Porzecanski, a pre-doctoral fellow at GDAE, is a doctoral candidate at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts.  His research focuses on the political economy of foreign investment in the Southern Cone. He is the co-author of The Dragon in the Room: China and the Future of Latin American Industrialization, with Kevin P. Gallagher, Stanford University Press, 2010 (forthcoming).